“What if training a shelter dog like a movie star would help that shelter dog be more adoptable?” That was one of the questions posed by author and positive dog training professional, Larry Kay, when we talked about how training a dog — shelter, or any dog — can strenghten the bond you have with him or her. Larry Kay, of Positively Woof, and his co-author, Chris Perondi of Stunt Dog Academy had a book released recently called, “The Big Book Of Tricks For The Best Dog Ever: A Step-by-Stp Guide to 118 Amazing Tricks and Stunts.” The idea behind the book was to show pet parents, and shelter operators, the benefit of training dogs. These tricks go from beginner to intermediate to advanced and as the title suggests, are broken down in easily digestible steps to help assure success!

5 Ways Training Your Dog Tricks Can Strengthen Your Bond

When I caught up with Larry, here are a few questions we discussed.

How does training your dog enrich his/her life? One of the biggest reasons shelter dogs don’t get adopted is lack of training. Chris and I asked one another, “What if we trained shelter dogs like movie dogs… Could learning dog tricks and basic behaviors shave their lives?”

We realized that it was true — training makes dogs more adoptable and makes them more likely to stay in their forever homes. Behavior training and trick training builds our bond with our dogs and it increases a dog’s confidence, makes them more sociable and better able to go out into the world. A well-trained dog, Larry said,  affords the dog the kinds of privileges a good canine citizen would enjoy.

Larry and Chris both have rescue dogs.

Since 2001, Chris has been working with rescue dogs. It was his first dog, Pepper, who took him down the career path he now follows with his Stunt Dog Academy. Chris shared that shelter dogs are no more, or no less, trainable than any other dog. “Any dog can be trained, but we work with shelter dogs because so many are euthanized every year… many simply because they haven’t received proper training.”

Can you tell me why rescue or shelter dogs make such amazing pets and/or why can dogs who are in shelters and who are trained to be “superstars” will become better family companions?

Larry explained that his rescue dog Spider (who had been adopted and returned several times by other families) has a glowing testimony from his vet. Larry said, “when I first adopted Spider my vet needed three vet techs just to examine him. Now we walk into the vet’s office and Spider performs tricks for those in the waiting room.” Spider is a different dog, Larry explained — because of training and specifically trick training.

“We’ve also become something of a celebrity duo at the elementary school we walk by daily. The children will yell Spider’s name and we stop and do an impromptu trick performance for the kids.

Spider is also starting to perform with Larry when he has public speaking engagements. They are now performing at the California Science Center museum for its “Dogs!” exhibition that runs through January. “We are performing dog tricks and talking about the bond that trick training and behavior training builds between humans and their beloved dogs.”

What is your favorite trick in the book and why? This may seem like an advanced trick, but it isn’t really and it is one of Spider’s favorites. He perches is front paws on an exercise ball and rolls it across my video studio. Spider also invented a trick and will hop from the exercise ball to a shopping cart. Once Spider puts his paws on the shopping cart handle, he will push it across the studio.

This trick is one that has building blocks from beginner to intermediate to advanced level. You can teach your dog to do this trick by:

  1. Teaching him to put his paws up on an object aka target training.
  2. Next, have him touch a larger target or put his paws up on a larger target or a platform
  3. The trick becomes “intermediate” when your dog puts his paws on a big ball that rolls. Start with a deflated ball and teach your dog to put his paws on there. Slowly inflate the ball until it’s fully inflated.
  4. Once it’s fully inflated, cue your dog to put his paws on that perch
  5. Move the ball an inch at a time until your dog is moving the ball and walking along behind it.

Larry said to praise your dog and give him treats at every stage of the training. We only use positive reinforcement and that means praise and rewards. Over time you can phase out the rewards because performing the trick will become the reward itself and you don’t want the trick to be dependent upon receiving a reward.

What are 5 reasons that training your dog can enrich your bond?

  1. You’re working together toward a common goal and your dog wants to please you
  2. Spending time together strengthens your bond with your dog and his with you
  3. If you’ve got a high energy dog and one who needs a “job” trick training will help work off excess energy and may help him relax while you’re away
  4. It stimulates your dog and lowers your stress. Win-win
  5. A well-trained dog is a happier dog and is one who will be more of a joy for you, and everyone around you, to be around

Chris said that the major benefit of training a dog to do tricks is the time you will spend together. “My life has been changed by all of my adopted and rescue dogs, Chris said. He also shared that any dog who is given a chance and given a job can become an ideal family companion. If any dog is left to his or her own devices and not given exercise, a job to do and love, has the propensity to destroy a home and that’s the reason many dogs are surrendered.

“Families need to address the potential for boredom in their dogs because that will make everyone happier — the dog and the happier the family,” Chris said.

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