Training a dog for service work can be intense for both the owner and the dog. Mixing in trick training can bring back the fun! Additionally, working towards Trick Titles is a nice way for an owner-trainer to set some smaller goals as they work towards training the dog for service work. Training tricks can make it easier for an owner with a disability to provide exercise and enrichment for the dog in inclement weather. Last but not least, training some tricks, may also help with the training of some service dog tasks.
Tips for Training Tricks to Service Dog Candidates
- Think carefully before training tricks that are very similar to service dog tasks. For instance, if you are working on beginning to back-chain a retrieve for a service dog task, training the dog to a trick that involves targeting with the nose could confuse the dog. The dog may try to grab the target or touch the object you want retrieved up with the nose.
- Keep the trick training fun and silly. Even training a trick can be pressure for the dog. Allow the dog to choose how to perform the trick. For instance, if the dog prefers to roll over to the left, accept and reward that behavior. If the dog starts to act bored, frustrated or leaves the training session stop training and reflect. It may be time to spend less time training or this might not be a good trick to work on.
- Be thoughtful in selecting tricks. Tricks that involve very athletic behaviors like jumping may be physically risky for the dog. On the other hand, tricks that involve retrieving may compliment and support some owner’s task training goals.
- Choose tricks that are relatively easy for the owner and the dog. The service dog training process is hard enough, trick training will not be fun for either the owner or the dog if the trick is too complex.
- Make sure the trick training doesn’t add pressure to the training schedule. Trick training is often great to do with young adolescent service dogs in training. When the team is getting ready to be assessed for public access, it’s usually better for the owner to focus exclusively on service dog training.
Two great trick training resources: