Get the basics right first

"First, make sure your dog has a basic level of obedience," she recommends. "That he knows the difference between sit, stand and down. Many tricks are extensions of these three commands, but even those that aren't will require the dog to understand basics and respond to simple commands."

Sharon suggests using food as a reward, simple one word commands, and clickers to reinforce the command.

"That way the dog is more likely to understand what you want him to do," she explains. 

Sharon's five favourite tricks

1. Paw!

Start with an easy one.

a. Put some dog food into your right hand. Show the food to the dog and then close your hand, make it into a fist. The dog can't see the food but can smell it.

b. Raise the hand containing the food above the dog's head. The dog will lift his head up to follow the food and his paw will naturally follow.

c. When the paw comes off the floor, say the command 'paw', click the clicker and release the food.

2. Crawl!

Some breeds will already crawl instinctually, but it's still fun to teach.

a. Put food in your hand and instruct the dog to go into the down position (lying on their stomachs on the floor).

b. Place your hand containing the food in front of the dog, and then move your hand slowly away from him. The dog will follow, crawling along the floor.

c. If the dog keeps standing up to follow you, try doing the trick underneath a table or a chair, then the dog has something to crawl under.

3. Catch!

Most dogs naturally catch balls and soft toys. Some, however, have less drive for the ball.

a. To get more reluctant dogs to catch a ball, start by dropping a piece of food in your hand, make sure the dog has seen it and then throw it down by their feet.

b. When they are picking the food up regularly, throw the treat into the air for the dog to follow.

c. Once the dog is tracking the treat's trajectory, throw it straight towards the dog so they can catch it.

d. Once the dog is catching treats regularly, move to soft toys and eventually to soft balls. 

4. Door!

Getting a dog to open a door is a bit harder.

a. Start by encouraging the dog to use his paws to touch, first your hands, then parts of the furniture, by using the techniques in the paw trick above.

b. If you want the dog to pull a door open, attach a piece of rope to the door, and get the dog to tug at it.

c. Say 'open' when your dog gets it right, click your clicker and reward him with a treat.

5. Dance!

Sharon's favourite Crufts trick is when the dog dances in and out of the trainer's legs.

a. As you walk forward, touch your front leg.

b. When the dog follows, move your hand down to the other leg and the dog comes through your legs.

c. Then swap over your hands and do the same thing on the other side.

Patient paws

One of the most useful 'tricks' you can teach your dog is to stay calm and still while you're inspecting their eyes, ears, paws, joints and teeth. This gets the dog used to being examined by you or a vet. Hold the dog firmly while you carefully look him over, gently feeling for any potential problems. Make sure you reward your dog once the inspection’s over. 

Although it's not the most exciting trick, it will be extremely valuable to teach your dog to stay still if it means you can detect a health problem early on - particularly if it becomes serious enough to warrant a claim on your pet insurance

Sharon adds that when teaching your dog tricks, you'll need to be patient with them.

"Dogs learn by repetition and they won't get it right straight away, every time," she says. 

Also, keep the chat to a minimum. Sharon explains that dogs can be trained to understand one word commands, but these commands can be lost if you talk to them too much during the trick.


Teaching your dog a new trick can help them work their brains and their bodies, plus, interacting with your dog in this way can have the added advantage of strengthening your bond with them.

You can follow Sharon Chamberlin, head trainer at ‘Barking Mad’ Dog Training School on Twitter @Doberdayz.