We’ve now been sheltering in place due to COVID-19 for two months, so if you’re anything like us, you’re probably feeling a little stir crazy – and your dogs might be, too! Maybe you’ve exhausted all your dog’s favorite toys, the trails near your house are too crowded, or you just need a fun activity that you can do with your pup in your own yard. These three tricks offer great mental stimulation for your dog and they’re a great excuse to soak up the good weather in your yard. (But don’t worry – you can still work on these in your house if you don’t have access to a yard or if the weather takes a turn.)

Paws Up

“Paws up” is a great behavior to teach your dog if you want to encourage them to interact with novelty objects. Plus, if you have a shy dog, this trick teaches them the “power pose” and helps to build their confidence:

  • You need a raised, small platform. You can use a low folding chair, an upside-down round container, or a solid flower pot. Just make sure whatever you use is strong enough to support your dog’s weight and isn’t too tall for them to reach.
  • Whenever your dog shows interest in the prop, mark it with your positive marker word and reward them with a treat.
  • Slowly lure your dog to put a paw on the prop. Go slowly, working on one paw at a time. Your final goal is for your dog to put both of their front paws on it.
  • Once your dog is comfortable with the prop, you can switch to using other props, or even benches and rocks you may see when you’re out for a walk on the trails or in your neighborhood.


Sit Pretty/Beg

This is an exercise that helps your dog build strength in their core muscles in order to maintain balance while doing it:

  • Start with your dog in a sitting position. If you have a big dog or a dog with a slightly longer back, make sure you provide some kind of support, by either positioning their back against a wall or against your body.
  • Place a lure hand in front of their nose and then move your lure hand upward a little bit – just enough to get your dog to lift their two front paws off the ground.
  • Mark the moment their front paws gain elevation and let them have the treat, then release them from the position.
  • Slowly build on the elevation of the front paws and on the duration that they hold the position.
  • Be aware that not every dog is built to do this trick! It’s not recommended for dogs with very long backs and regardless of your dog’s build, don’t ask them to hold the position for a long period of time, just to be safe.


Object on Head

Teach your dog to balance a toy or treat on their head or muzzle area:

  • Keep your dog’s head steady by holding the lure treat at their nose. At the same time, use your other hand to place a small toy on your dog’s head/muzzle area.
  • While the toy is making contact on the dog’s head/muzzle, say your marker word and reward your dog with a treat.
  • Slowly prolong the contact time while you hold the object in place, say your marker word, and reward your dog.
  • Slowly remove your hand so the object is balancing on top of your dog’s head/muzzle. Mark and reward your pup.


More About Tricks Training

Currently, there are several local training facilities that teach tricks throughout the country with only two titling organizations. If you plan to put titles on your dog, you’ll want to look at the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Do More With Your Dog! (DMWYD) titling programs in the US.

Marin Humane usually offers in-person trick classes, but we’re working on trick training videos to guide you and your dog while Marin shelters in place. When you’ve taught enough tricks to earn your titles, you can contact a CTDI or AKC CGC/Trick evaluators at Marin Humane to evaluate your videos.

If you want to learn about titling your dogs, click the following links for each organization: