Years ago we were visiting a friend who commanded his dog, “Butch, go lay down under the table”.
Butch dutifully did as he was told, and I was thoroughly impressed. “That’s amazing; he knows what a table is!”
What Dogs Know…
Our friend gave me a sheepish grin, and let me know that ol’ Butch would always lay under the table.
He could have told the dog to go lay down on the moon, and he still would have gone under the table.
“Go lay down” was the command Butch was hearing — the rest was added to impress gullible visitors like myself.
Needless to say, we all had a good laugh, and I filed that little tidbit away for future reference.
Same Trick, Different Dog
Sometime later, we moved into a rental house where the previous tenant had abandoned an old brown piece of a sectional sofa. Like most dogs, the two we had at the time much preferred sleeping in a nice, cushy people chair to the floor or their (equally cushy) dog bed. They quickly claimed this piece of furniture for their own.
We soon noticed that whenever we told the dogs to “Go lay down”, they automatically headed for “their” chair. So we simply changed the command to, “Go lay down in the brown chair”.
Many subsequent visitors were suitably amazed, and their comments were always a variation of “Wow! I knew your dogs were smart, but you mean they can actually tell COLORS?!”
You Can Do It, Too!
To adapt this scenario to your own dog, think about some things your dog does naturally without being asked. Does she shake with her left paw instead of her right? Does he turn around 3 times before he’ll lay down? The possibilities are endless!
In effect, the way to teach your dog some fun new tricks is to simply think about some things your dog does naturally without being asked. Then, give a specific “command” to that behavior. From this point forward, whenever your dog does that behavior… call out that command. That’s how you associate the behavior with the command. So, in the future, your dog will do this particular behavior on command.
Now all you need is a creatively named command, and together you and your dog will be able to pull off some pretty remarkable “tricks”! It’s up to you whether you share the details of how he does it with your friends or not.
It Works With Any Command & Any Behavior
Here’s an example of a dog that would “go get a suntan” on cue.
The photo on the left was taken during the first days of training the command to “got get a suntan” — as a puppy.
The photo on the right is the same dog, continuing the behavior as an adult. When told to “go get a suntan,” he now climbs up on the same chair and sprawls out as if to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
It’s all about giving a command name to something your dog already does!
Once a dog associates a command (any word or phrase) with a particular behavior, he remember it and will continue to do it… just like a dog trick!