Tricks for Treats – Keeping Your Dog Busy This Winter
By: Brittney Frazier, Found Chicago
As the beautiful summer and early fall weather draws to a close, dog owners around Chicago are seeking new ways to exercise and engage with their cooped up canines. While physical activity is extremely important for any dog, mental stimulation is just as beneficial to your pet and is a great way to work your dog out in the winter when walk time may be cut short.
- Teaching tricks to a dog is more than something cute to show off at family get-togethers. Usually, I recommend teaching a dog tricks after all other areas of training have been covered and the dog needs extra challenge to stay fulfilled, which could be due to the dog’s breed or energy level. However, challenging your dog’s mental stamina with trick training has many benefits beyond energy outlet or its obvious adorable appeal. Below are some reasons to teach your dog a new behavior (or two!) this winter.
- Tricks increase a dog’s ability to learn and retain information. When a dog learns new behaviors that are not necessarily natural to them, the dog will also develop new problem solving strategies and will start to better learn how to achieve the reward more quickly. Because brains are like muscles that become stronger with repetitive use, this improves the dog’s ability to train overall. You’ll find their concentration improve and see your dog recall things more quickly the more tricks you teach them.
- Your dog’s physical capabilities will improve when they learn tricks. Trick training can be a kind of “doggie yoga;” especially tricks like “roll over” and “sit pretty.” Learning such behaviors will allow a dog to gain flexibility, motor skills, and precision in movement. This kind of energy release will keep your dog happy and healthy, while increasing blood flow and encouraging the release of positive hormones. The more tricks you teach, the more agile the dog becomes and the more complex tricks you can help your dog to learn!
- Integrate basic obedience skills into your trick training and your dog’s responsiveness to previously-taught behavior will improve. The “ready position” for most tricks is usually a “sit” or “down.” You may even need to incorporate a “stay” when your dog is in a particular position you want to capture. In this way, the repetition of basic commands will help you achieve a quicker response to them during your everyday routine.
- Your relationship with your dog will improve. Dogs love working with you. It’s their way of bonding and dogs enjoy pleasing their owner. What better way to improve your teamwork skills with your dog than teaching them behaviors that you enjoy as well? Keep your sessions short, rewarding, and overwhelmingly positive and you will be able to demonstrate to your dog that working with you is fun. Cooperation is at the root of every good behavior you ask of your dog and no trick can be taught without it. So when you find that happy medium you and your dog work best at, you can bet it will go a long way in how they see you and your authority.
You have to admit, dog tricks are adorable; not to mention, an easy way to keep your dog active and fulfilled this winter utilizing very little space. Get out your tastiest treats, or even just some kibble, and see what your dog can do. I bet your dog will surprise you!
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