At the Novice and Intermediate levels, the dog may perform tricks while on-leash; the leash may not be used to physically manipulate the dog to do a trick. At the Advanced and Expert levels, the dog must work off-leash. Of course, physical or verbal corrections are not allowed. Treats are encouraged as a reward, but may not be used as lures beyond the Intermediate level. Tricktraining enthusiasts who earn at least an ITD title are welcome to pursue their CTDI (Certified Trick Dog Instructor), which requires completion of a written test and watching a video demonstrating your dog’s trick basics and how you would teach a new trick from scratch.
Regardless of the level and your reasons for pursuing it, you’re guaranteed to have a happier, healthier dog. “Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that training is fun!” enthuses Sundance. “This joyful attitude builds a bond that will extend into all areas of your life. Trick training teaches the dog that it is safe to offer behaviors, and that is what makes a really trainable dog.”
In the classic game, a ball is placed beneath one of three pails, or shells. The shells are quickly shuffled, and your dog shows you which one is hiding the ball.
What You’ll need: You’ll need three identical flower pots which have a hole at the base allowing your dog to smell the treat underneath. Heavy clay flower pots work well because they won’t overturn easily.
1. Start with just one flower pot and rub the inside with a treat to give it lots of scent. You can even tape a treat inside the pot. Show your dog as you place a treat on the floor and cover it with the pot. Encourage him to “find it!” When he noses or paws the pot, say “good!” (or click your clicker), and lift pot to reward him with the treat.
2. After your dog catches on, hold the pot in place and keep encouraging him until he paws at it. Reward any paw contact, and lift the pot.
3. Add two more pots and hold them in place so your dog doesn’t knock them over. Use the pitch of your voice to calm your dog as he sniffs each pot, and to excite him when he shows interest in the correct one. If your dog paws at an incorrect pot, do not lift it; instead encourage him to keep looking.
4. When your dog indicates the correct pot, encourage him until he paws at it, then say “good!” and lift the pot to reveal his reward!
What to expect: Be encouraging with your dog and avoid saying “no.” Practice only a few times per session and end with a successful attempt, even if you have to go back to using just one pot to get that success.