at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Trick Dog Training: Roll Yourself in a Blanket

One of my goals for 2019 was to work with my dog, Copernicus (or Copper for short), on earning various levels of Trick Dog Titles. I did not know that Trick Dog Titles were a thing until recently and when I found out, I knew it was the perfect winter activity for Copper and me -- something to keep us busy and active even when it's too cold to spend much time outside. I have always enjoyed dog training and have thus far had two rescue dogs that I've trained in obedience and tricks. Obedience training is necessary to keep your dog safe and happy and to keep those around him safe and happy, as well. It' fun to watch a dog learn and progress in his manners -- though it's a lot of work! For me, the real fun starts once the basic obedience work is done and we can start working on tricks! It is amazing how smart dogs are and how much they can learn. With a little time and a lot of patience, you can teach your dog to do incredible things. It's good for them, too, as it challenges them mentally, works their brains and helps them get out some energy in different ways. You'll find that some of the "tricks" actually help boost obedience, too.

The American Kennel Club has Trick Dog Titles, but they require in-person reviews of tricks, and that seemed hard to find a certified trainer -- and to have Copper perform in a new environment. So, we opted for the original Trick Dog title organization, Do More with Your Dog, which offers certified instructor reviews online by submitting videos. The Do More with Your Dog (DMWYD) program was actually more rigorous than the AKC, with longer lists of required tricks to earn each level. But, by the time I discovered DMWYD, I had already been training Copper for nearly two years, so the first couple levels were pretty simple for him. Within the first month, Copper had earned his Novice Trick Dog Title and his Intermediate Trick Dog Title. The next month, he earned his Advanced Trick Dog Title, and now we are working on the Expert Level.

I've been sharing our submission videos online and some other short clips of the tricks we are working on and I always get asked how you teach your dog to do such things as "put your toys away" or "bring me a tissue when I sneeze" or "roll yourself in blanket." I could write for a long time on that topic, but wanted to share a few tips here and a video of one of our training sessions so you can see what it looks like. There are a few ways to teach tricks, and the methodology used depends on both the trick you are trying to teach and the dog and his or her natural inclinations. More advanced tricks will build upon the simpler tricks, so having a strong foundation of basic tricks will make the others come more easily.

Many of the basic tricks can be taught by either luring a dog with a treat or catching him in the act of one of his natural behaviors that you want to put on a cue. As an example, I used a treat lure to teach Copper how to weave through my legs in a figure eight. He will follow food wherever it goes, so I held a treat in my hand and swapped hands as I lured him in the figure eight pattern. We did this many times until he got the gist of the movement and could do it on his own. Once a dog figures out what you want him to do, he'll often start "offering up" that behavior in hopes of getting a treat! So, we ended up where if I stepped my legs apart on the floor, he would just start weaving!

Putting natural behaviors on a cue can be harder, depending on what it is. I used this technique in part for teaching Copper how to yawn on command ("are you sleepy?") -- that was very difficult because I don't think he was conscious of the fact that he was yawning!-- and how to cross his paws ("pose"). Copper would very often naturally cross his front paws when he laid down in his bed. I would reward this behavior when I saw him do it by praising him and giving him a treat. Eventually, he figured out that he was being rewarded for something he was doing with his paws, and worked until he figured out the exact placement I was looking for.

I thought it might be helpful to show an actual training session so you can see what trick training looks like in real life. The video below shows us working on his newest trick -- rolling himself up in a blanket, which we are affectionately calling "Corn Dog." I've also added in some extras and outtakes from other sessions for good measure!

Trick Dog training is not only great for your dog, but it's great for you, as well! Tricks are a puzzle for your dog to figure out, but it also challenges you to be creative and think of new ways to get your dog to understand what you are asking. It's also oftentimes a serious lesson in patience, but also often very entertaining and a lot of fun! Training is a great bonding experience for you and your dog. If you've never tried trick training or if you want to take it to the next level, I highly recommend checking out Do More With Your Dog. They have books, videos and other great resources to get you started on earning your own Trick Dog Titles!

Already have your dog trained to do some cool tricks? Tell me about them in the comments! We are always looking for new fun tricks to try.

Share this:


Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!