Whether they’re young or old, if you’ve been teaching your dog a few tricks, you can take things to the next level by putting together a small trick routine. Trick routines are a great way to build your dog’s confidence with not only their trick skills but also with training in general.
You can also earn titles with beginner skills, and the Novice Trick Dog title only requires 10 different trick cues, such as crawl, shake, and high five. While an organized routine isn’t needed to earn this beginner title, putting tricks into a small routine is a great way to start to prepare yourself and your dog for the more advanced levels where the fluidity of performance does start to count. Trick routines are also a fun way to impress and entertain your friends and family.
What Is a Dog Trick Routine
A dog trick routine is a series of tricks strung together to create a little performance. A routine can be performed at home, online, or for a live audience—the choice is yours! Trick routines can be just the dog and handler, be set to music, or—in the case of the Elite Performer Trick Title—have a story. There is no wrong way to create a trick routine, so long as you and your dog are having fun.
Picking Tricks for Your Routine
When you put your dog’s first trick routine together, you’ll want to focus on tricks that your dog knows well and enjoys doing. As you work on trick training, you’ll begin to notice certain ones that they seem to favor. These are perfect cues to include in your dog’s first trick routine.
When putting a routine together try not to pick too many tricks your dog tends to struggle with, as this could interrupt the flow of tricks or feel demoralizing for you and your dog. Instead, practice those challenging tricks separate from your routines and incorporate them once your dog has mastered them.
Building a Longer Routine
Before putting tricks into a routine, you want to build up your dog’s endurance to do multiple tricks in a row. Start the well-known tricks you selected, and give them a treat after completing each trick. The better your dog gets, the more you can vary the reinforcement rate, meaning sometimes your dog will get a treat after each trick, and other times ask for several tricks before treating. This will help keep your dog invested and interested. The goal is to keep your dog’s enthusiasm up, rather than seeing how many tricks in a row you can ask your dog to do before treating.
One of the great things about tricks as a sport is that even at the highest levels of competition you can reward mid-routine, so don’t be afraid to incorporate reward breaks into the routine.
Putting It All Together
Once you’ve selected the tricks you’re going to use in your dog’s routine, you’ll want to consider how the tricks will flow. During the beginning Trick Dog levels, you don’t need to tell a “story” with your trick routine. Instead, you can focus just on creating a nice flow for you and your dog.
Consider how tricks that use props might flow together. Tricks with similar props should be performed in one area together, so you aren’t having to run back and forth across a training area. You may also want to consider your dog’s temperament.
If you have a dog who doesn’t love getting up from a sit, consider spacing out stationary tricks like sit or down, or not including them so you can keep your dog’s energy up by keeping them in motion. If you do include tricks that slow your dog down, be sure to increase your rate of reinforcement after those tricks.
Remember to Have Fun
Like all dog sports, Trick Dog should be a fun and playful sport. With accessibility in mind, the goal of tricks is to teach your dog new skills and that they enjoy and look forward to learning.
Once you’ve choreographed your routine, it’s time to practice! Keep your practice sessions short and fun, using plenty of praise and reinforcement for your dog. Try to be flexible with your dog’s routine. Don’t be afraid to switch things up and change the order of tricks or substitute tricks if you decide it would work better within the routine. It’s all a learning process.