Tricks and tips to keep dog training fun and interesting for both the handler and the dog – Part 1

Fun training techniques to keep dogs and their handlers interested in class and to keep them learning.

Many times dogs and their handlers get bored practicing the same moves over and over during training. In this article you will find some great tricks and training techniques from Michigan State University Extension that can add pizazz and fun to your training. Many of the tricks will help with different disciplines and all of them will help your dog’s focus and enthusiasm towards training.

Watch me (helps with focus on handler)

Place your dog on a leash and as you are moving around within the range of the leash, watch for the dog to look at you. Every time dog looks at you instantly give the reward them (with a treat or praise). Do this until dog begins to look at you more often.

When the dog starts watching you for longer periods of time, give a reward every few seconds instead of every time.

Once the dog starts constantly watching you for 20-30 seconds at a time, you should reward the dog less often. Continue this process until the dog is watching you throughout your training until you finish the exercise.

Goal: Get the dog to watch you 90 percent of time.

Sit (taught differently than the traditional way)

Place the dog on a leash with their training-collar and leash on. Have the dog positioned in front of you, hold the leash taught so they cannot move backwards or away from you, then take the treat in your fore-finger and thumb and place your hand, palm-side up. Sweep your hand from a perpendicular position to the ground to horizontal position and move your hand just above dog's noise, slowly move your hand towards the back of the dog’s head and command "sit." As soon as he/she sits reward them with the treat.

This gets the dog to sit without force because he/she is following the treat in your hand. As they look back they will bend their neck until they cannot go any further, and sitting is the next step. You can also position the dog with his butt against the wall so that they cannot move backwards with the treat, but will sit easily. When they start sitting without much hesitation, you will use only the hand signal in front of them to command them to sit.


Have the dog sit in front of the handler (use the hand signal above) at same time as giving the command "stay." Wait two seconds and then give the dog a reward. Repeat this action; get the dog to stand by backing up a few inches and pulling the dog with you. Say “sit” with your hand signal, then say “stay” (using your hand signal) and wait a couple seconds, then reward the dog. Keep doing this until the dog understands, then sit the dog and give them the stay command and back up one step. Continue doing this until you can back up to the end of the leash. This may take multiple practice sessions to teach.


Have someone hold your dog on a leash and move about three feet away, turn toward your dog, squat down and call your dog to you. Coax them with an excited voice and if necessary, a treat; as soon as your dog comes to you reward him/her. Once your dog is coming to you every time, back up an additional two feet. Do this until you are able to stay at the end of your leash and every time you call your dog it comes to you faithfully, without hesitation. You should only be giving your dog a reward when they complete the command. Then as they progresses with distance, give treats periodically.

Long line play (helps with the come command)

Long line play can have many benefits, such as helping with the dog that you cannot quite trust off leash yet. It can help with the come command and certainly helps with focus. A long line can range from 10- to 30-feet in length. As the dog responds to training you will want to offer more line, I recommend the 30-foot line. A long line can be made of a soft cotton clothesline and a snap. Make sure the snap is securely fastened on the end so that it does not separate from the line if tension is placed on it.

Attach the long line to your dog’s training-collar. Ask the dog to heal (the dog needs to already understand the heal position to be successful with this technique). As you are walking along with the dog, start to walk backwards while saying (dog’s name) come, and pull them along so that they turn and come towards you. Run backwards as they are coming to you. When the dog runs past you again give the come command and turn a 180 degree angle and go the other way. The idea is to get the dog to turn as well and continue to come to you.

Be very cautious to not jerk the dog’s head around when changing directions. Give more of the line as you change so the dog has extra time to react to your direction change.

After you do this maneuver a few times the dog will start to come to you instead of running past. This is what you want and you should stop with the dog right in front of you while offering plenty of praise.

Long line play is also a good safety tool. You can use it during fetch play, yard play, running with your dog and much more. It can drag on the ground loosely and you only grab it if needed when the dog doesn’t seem to be responding to your commands. You can also attach it to yourself so if your dog gets too excited about his/her surroundings; you have a way to bring their focus back to you before they run into an unsafe environment.

All of these fun training tips will help you with your basic obedience. However, by changing things up you keep your dog’s interest and really develop their focusing skills which are helpful in every discipline.

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