Early in 2017, Matthew, Bernie, and I took a tricks class with our Labradoodle Bernie. We missed a few classes and did not focus on practicing the dog tricks at home consistently. Since then, I’ve tried to reinforce the few tricks that we did learn together, but I haven’t added anything truly new.
Since we’re training Bernie to be a therapy dog, we decided to start adding in more tricks training. Who wouldn’t want to see a few fun tricks during a therapy dog visit?
Back in August I bought the ebook version of 101 Dog Tricks and I’ve been slowly reading through the tricks to determine which ones I’d like to try with Bernie and Lizzie.
One of the convenient things about this instructional dog trick training book is that you don’t have to read it cover-to-cover. After you’ve chosen the tricks you want to work on, the book becomes a handy reference tool.
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Our trainer is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, so she’s shared information about the various trick dog titles offered through Kyra Sundance’s Do More With Your Dog! If you haven’t checked out her website, give it a click. The rainbow ribbons and certificates are definitely motivating!
Each trick follows an easy-to-follow format for training:
Trick name with difficulty level and a photo of the trick in action
Verbal cue and photo of a hand signal suggestion, if there is one
Teach It: step-by-step directions on how to teach the trick
What to Expect: description of how long it may take your dog to learn the trick and/or other tips about how to maximize your training sessions with a focus on keeping you and your dog safe
Prerequisites: a short list of any tricks your dog needs to know or may be useful
Troubleshooting: solutions for anticipated problems you may encounter
Build on It: description of how you can extend the trick to make it fancier
Tip section: general tips about dogs and dog training
Steps: sequenced photos of the trick being taught with key directions repeated
The tricks are organized thematically…
One of the advantages I saw with this structure was my ability to think about how I might really use some of these tricks either around the house or in a potential “performance” while we’re out meeting people.
The photos helped too. Kyra often dresses in cute outfits that help any dog owner consider how the trick could be more visually interesting for your potential audience.
If you’re thinking about building various tricks into a story for a longer performance, the photos and overall thematic organization will help get your creative juices flowing.
The step-by-step directions are clear and concise…
Like any good teacher, Kyra Sundance doesn’t just give you the instructions for a trick once. She makes sure you read the instructions twice and see pictures of each step.
Her first set of written instructions have more detail while the second set pairs with the photos. The photos were all shot in a studio, so there are no distracting “lifestyle” backgrounds. You can clearly see what Kyra is doing and what her dog model is doing.
For some of the tricks, it felt like some steps may be missing, like I would be trying to leap too quickly from a beginning point to the desired result. Other instructions made some of the tricks sound a little easier than I think they are. I’m guessing every reader may feel this way because as we’re all reading, we’re considering our dog and what our dog’s strengths and weaknesses are.
I’ve attended several different dog obedience classes with two different trainers, so my confidence level with training my own dogs is higher than it was when Bernie was 8 weeks old. When I went back and reread the directions for the first trick I wanted to try, I saw the clarifying details I was looking for. They’re just concisely written, so be sure to take in each step carefully.
The books ends with a list of 50 more tricks! Thankfully, there’s also an encouraging message. Sundance reminds the reader that if you’ve been training your dog to do tricks with the strategies you’ve learned and used repeatedly for the 101 tricks in this book, then with a little creative thinking, you will figure out how to elicit the described behavior in those 50 more tricks.
Sundance truly aims to inspire. She refers to her training program as a lifestyle. Over on her website Do More with Your Dog!, their program is described as “a philosophy which encourages the integration of your dog into your life in a variety of ways—through sport, training, or accompanying you to more places. Dogs have a way of making the activities we share with them more fun, and by giving them training, we allow them to participate in more areas of our life.”
Any downsides to this book?
The big downside to this book is that the tricks are mixed by difficulty level. Since I’m thinking about trying to earn at least one trick dog title, this organization makes that goal more difficult. Determining which tricks from different skill levels I could potentially train required more effort.
There are two appendices at the back of the book. The first organizes the tricks by skill level. The second organizes them by sport. Unfortunately, in the ebook version, none of the tricks listed in the appendices are hyperlinked back to the step-by-step directions, so you have to pull up the table of contents and scroll through to find the name of the trick you’d like to re-read. Kind of a pain.
I needed an easy-to-use document that would allow me to choose tricks from various skill levels and keep notes on each trick. As I started working on tricks, I also realized that the difficulty level of many dog tricks has changed over time. I needed a reference sheet that I could edit.
I made a spreadsheet in Numbers with each trick categorized by skill level according to
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