Dance, puppet, dance!

By Mir
February 8, 2010

Chickadee is taking Licorice through the same training class I did with her when we first brought her home. This is good for Licorice (more training) and good for Chickadee (more responsibility) but slightly inconvenient for me and Otto (have to take her to a two-hour class every week) and downright annoying for Monkey (with Chickadee now asserting dominance over the dog, Monkey is the last low puppy on the pack totem pole). Nevertheless, on the whole we think it’s a good thing.

Licorice is a completely different dog than the one we met all those months ago; she seems to enjoy class, now, whereas when I was doing training with her she often seemed to feel she was being punished or tortured by having to spend time with those other dogs. Also, we had days back then when she didn’t seem to understand what I wanted her to do. Now, she completely understands what Chickadee wants her to do… and often does the canine equivalent of thumbing her nose at her and singing, “Make me!”

Not that I enjoy watching my daughter deal with The Stubborn, or anything. Oh no. AHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAhem.

F’rinstance: I used to take her to class and train her with a bag of mostly kibble, with a couple of bits of cheese thrown in for extra incentive. Now Licorice has decided that she only works for pepperoni. I SWEAR. Chickadee rewards her with a piece of kibble and Licorice looks at it hit the floor and then looks up at her like, “Yeah, no.” Then she lays down on Chickadee’s feet and refuses to comply again until she gets a treat she deems worthy.


The best part, of course, is that she knows she’s completely adorable while she’s being a pain in the ass.

Cough up the pepperoni, bitch. You can't say no to this face.

Cough up the pepperoni, bitch. You can’t say no to this face.

Chickadee is the youngest handler in the class and desperately wants to do well, lest she appear to, I don’t know, be a child or something. (THE HORROR!) So last week when it was announced that it was time to start thinking about what trick to teach your dog, she became utterly paralyzed with indecision.

Getting your dog to do a new trick is part of the “final exam.” I taught Licorice to roll over, when I took the class, and it took forever and for a while I thought she’d never get it. Now rolling over is a standard part of her “obedience seizure” (otherwise known as YOU HAVE SOMETHING I WANT I WANT I WANT IT I WILL DO ALL MY TRICKS AT ONCE, SEE, HERE I AM FLOPPING AROUND ON THE FLOOR LIKE A BEACHED FISH, I ROLLED OVER TWELVE TIMES GIMME GIMME GIVEITTOMENOW).

Chickadee wants the “perfect” trick to teach Licorice over the next few weeks. Just as soon as she figures out what that might be.

We’re open to suggestions on the best trick to teach her. Licorice is small and agile and likes long walks on the beach and romantic candlelit dinners pretty smart, so it can be something a little harder than the norm, but we’re not going to try to get her to bake a meatloaf, or anything.

What’s the funniest or cutest doggie trick you know?


  1. Pam

    I like it when the doggies sit on their back legs and temple their front paws together. Either they look like they are praying, or pleading for treats.

  2. Otto

    Wait – I WANT HER TO BAKE A MEATLOAF! Why doesn’t anyone ever ask me?

    Hrmmm … okay, maybe we’d end up with some fur from the kneading process. How about making Mac-N-Cheese once in a while? Loading up my favorite news sites (since we don’t get a paper for her to retrieve). Or at least fetching my slippers …


  3. Missy

    High fives are always cute!

  4. Jeanmarie

    My best friend growing up was an orthodox Jew, and she taught her dog to hold a treat on top of it’s nose as long as Laura was telling her it was “trafe” (non-kosher)…as soon as Laura announced “KOSHER!!” the dog would flip the treat into the air and catch it in his mouth – could you teach licorice something similar with, I don’t know – “Tofu” and “Bacon”?? “Brussel Sprouts” and “Ice Cream”? Whatever Chickadee loves and doesn’t love to eat…

  5. Cindy

    Not that this is helpful but the most impressive animal trick I’ve seen is something I watched my father teach a pig. We bred pigs for slaughter when I was growing up (mmm, bacon!) and for the most part, they were not pets. However, Dad took a shine to this one and named it Pit-a-lig. He was allowed to roam free and would come up on the porch in the evenings. His greatest love was beer and would make a nuisance of himself by hunting down every stray empty he could find and destroy it in the quest for a drop or two. So Dad trained him to the point where he could hand the pig a beer (an open one) and Pitalig would drink it down like a frat boy, crush the can and deposit the can in the appropriate receptacle.

  6. Ann Menk

    I think teaching her to say her prayers is the cutest. Of course, I have a larger dog but I think it will still work. Have Licorice sit up with her front paws on your left leg (as you are seated on the edge of a chair). With your right hand, hold the pepperoni under your left thigh, so that she will put her head down between her paws to look at it. She will look like she is bowing her head in prayer. Make her stay in that position, and then give hand her the treat while your hand is still under your leg. Greed in a dog is an excellent motivator! Good luck!

  7. CarolM

    Jumping through a hula hoop is uber-cute (and very easy to teach).

  8. Craig

    I taught my dog to sit on her hind legs. When I would point my finger at her like a “gun” and said “bang” she would drop and play dead.

  9. Springsteen fan

    two ideas:

    “Be Shy” involves the dog lying down and covering their eyes w/paws. I’ve seen it on youtube, but can only get my Bernese Mountain Dog to do it by wrestling his ginormous paws over his face.

    Other is “Bang, you’re dead” which involves shooting an invisible handgun at your dog while he rolls over and plays dead. Kind of a variation on rolling over, which Licorice totally has nailed, but yes, kind of creepy. But also hilarious! It kept a group of tween lacrosse playing girls entranced for 15 mins when my friend did it w/her dog.

  10. Em

    I used to have a dog that would whisper. It really wasn’t something we taught her as much as something we stumbled upon and went with but she would bark a regular doggy bark until we said “whisper”. Then she would make barking faces, open and close her mouth, sort of expel a little breath.

  11. Flea

    Otto’s got the right idea. Or maybe teach Licorice to do dishes. Or laundry. Man, that would rock. If Chicky can pull that off, I have two Australian Shepherds I’ll pay her to train.

  12. Pamela

    What about teaching her to back up? It’s surprisingly useful, and also makes obedience seizures even funnier.

  13. Jean

    The one where you shoot the dog and the dog plays dead is always great. I have a friend who had a dog that could sneeze on cue and he would tell the dog to play dead and then to “sneeze and it’ll start your heart”. The dog would sneeze and stand back up. Very cute.

    Another one that is relatively easy is where you teach the dog to shake paws, only on cues of “left paw” and “right paw”. Easily accomplished after you teach the dog to shake paws, just cue the dog with your opposite hand, as if you were shaking hands with a human. Not too difficutand people seem to enjoy it, altho it isn’t nearly as showy as biscuit flips off the nose and such.

    Good luck to Chicky!

  14. Tracy

    My papillon gives hugs. It’s so precious and yes, he can have all the kibble he wants afterwards. =)

  15. Nelson's Mama

    She’s adorable – love her expression!!!

    Nelson is trickless. He does army crawl across the floor, which I find very funny.

  16. Kristi

    Fetch the newspaper from the end of the driveway. Or put a treat on the end of her nose and make her sit still until you say to get it and then she flips it into the air and catches it in her mouth.

  17. Kim in Minnesota

    Very helpful to teach her to “drop it.” For all those times the dog runs away with your favorite item.

  18. Ariel

    I also second the “bang, you’re dead” trick. It’s funny as hell:)
    Creepy? Maybe a little, but the funny outweighs the creepy.

  19. MomCat

    How about mixing concrete and signing complicated insurance forms? (Sorry – totally ripped that off from “Holy Grail.”)

  20. Cathy

    I should not laugh so hard at the thought of an alcoholic pig, but I have to admit that is a sight I’d love to see. Right along with my dad’s dog from the 50s that would steal lit cigarrettes from his friends if they left them unattended.

    Cindy, too bad your dad’s pig and my dad’s dog couldn’t ever hang out. They could be the bad influences in the barnyard!

  21. Beth R

    From everyone I’ve ever heard talk about tricks, the big thing is to watch the dog and see what they do naturally and then build the trick into that. If it’s something they don’t do, it’s going to be a lot harder.

    Example: watching the Eukanuba National Championships this weekend, the Pomeranian would do a little spin or two each time they started the walk. It wasn’t a taught trick, just something he/she did and the trainer built on it.

  22. Kristy

    One of my dogs will “high five”…although it’s more of a high “ten” because he stands on his hind legs and smacks both his paws on your hands. It’s really cute!

  23. S

    super cute trick on Patricia McConnell’s website under dog training and Trisha’s favorite trick “Are you ashamed of yourself” – tell me that wouldn’t come in handy???!!!

  24. Jacqueline

    Ooh, I know! My mom’s dog when she was a youngling would conduct an invisible orchestra – sit on her hind legs and wave her paws. I of course did not personally witness this, but it sounded very cute.

  25. Nicki

    Dogs do tricks? Our biggest dane trick was potty training. And the rest was gravy.

  26. Janine

    I taught my Boston to stand up on his hind legs and turn in a full circle while on his hind legs. I do like the “bang, you’re dead” trick though….

  27. Katie in MA

    Oh my goodness! These tricks are all so impressive and sooooo cute! I feel inferior and I don’t even *have* a dog!

  28. Stace

    My Mom’s dog “sits pretty”. It reminds me of a prairie dog…up on her butt…front legs hanging loosly by her side…and that pathetic cocker spaniel face. I honestly don’t know how she manages to sit like that with her little nub tail…its cute though.

  29. Shelley

    We recently taught our Puggle, Bella, to high five. (It’s usually like high 10 though!) Bella also shakes paws. She will shake with her right or left paw when instructed to do so. Good luck Chickadee! Let us know which she chooses.

  30. Jen

    I also like the “bang, bang” trick – used to do it with my golden when she was little.
    For a small agile dog another showy and relatively easy trick is to jump through a circle made by your arms. Start with the “circle” at floor level and teach her to step through, then gradually increase the height.
    My guys haven’t been able to do that one as my arms don’t make a large enough circle. (Springsteen fan – I’m a berner person too!)

  31. The Domestic Goddess

    We make dogs balance things on their nose and hold it there for an eternity because we are evil. But shaking hands and giving high fives are up there, too.

  32. Karen

    I’m thinking she’s already taught YOU a trick or two… like getting her that pepperoni whether she “gets it” or not. No?

    She looks so much better, Mir.. since you’ve had her. You done good.

  33. HG

    I’ve now taught my second dog to sit to the command “What do good boys do?” — it makes me laugh.

  34. Jess

    Our dogs can “crawl” (train by dragging a treat across the floor after you make them lay down), and “dance” on their hind legs for a couple of seconds. You could also teach her to “spin” pretty easily.

  35. Pats

    I taught Sanders to ring a large jinglebell to go outside. (Hint: using peanut butter!) Now any time he wants to go out, he stands there and bops the bell with his nose. It’s very handy.

  36. Holly

    I once heard of a dog who would be “arrested” They would say a command and the dog would put his front paws up on something so that he would be “standing” and then they would frisk him. Afterwards he would sit back down and lift his paws up so that they could cuff him. Not easy, by any means but I’m sure it would be hilarious to see. :-) good luck to Chicadee!

  37. Beth

    My brother trained one of our childhood German Shepherds to field tennis balls as if they were hit baseballs. He would say “Rex, it’s a pop fly!” or “Rex, it’s a ground ball!” and Rex would get into the proper position and catch the ball the way it was thrown. Rex was trained to follow the voice command rather than the hand position, so David could say “ground ball” while holding the ball as though it was going to go high and Rex would still get into the proper position.

  38. heels

    My dog’s best tricks are the spin, where she does a quick, bouncy turn as if chasing her tail around once, and the politician shake, where she shakes your hand and then puts her other paw on top of your shaking hand. She loves the spin so much that she now does it when she’s excited, and the politician shake is hilarious.

  39. Sheila

    Our dear departed dog (RIP, Owen) KILLED with the “bang” trick. Every. Time.

  40. AmandaKay

    Fist bump! Similiar to the handshake. Hold a treat in your closed fist until the dog “paws” at it and then give him the treat. Refine the techinque until you can hold out your closed fist, sans treat, and have the dog “bump” his paw into your fist. (Then treat with pepperoni, because kibble is SO old skool.)

  41. Mare

    My Chihuahua does the bang trick, she does the flounder which is where she gets on her back and wiggles around until I tell her back on sand, the please please (temple of paws) as well as the Make a Little Love (variation of please please in a circle like she’s dancing), roll over, shake, other foot, bow, army crawl, sneaky crawl (variation of the army crawl only she has use of all her legs), and holy crap which involves the trick seizure (?). She wouldn’t have anything to do with a hula hoop. She was terrified of it. I gave up.

  42. Dragon

    Bang you’re dead is my favourite. My dog is too wiggly for it, but Licorice would probably love it. One that’s pretty easy to teach is Shake A Paw (right paw only), followed by Other Paw (left paw). It’s a good one for introducing kids to dogs, and when the dog gets good at it you can morph it into a kind of dance.

  43. Neptune

    The “Bang your dead” trick always cracks me up. But the paw thing…I taught one of mine that the right paw meant “yes” and the left paw meant “no.” It’s not easy, but it’s remarkable how it’ll make you AND your dog, break away from using food as a reward with a food-motivated doggy. :)

  44. The Other Leanne

    When my Dobie was a pup, I trained her to pee on command. Very handy in a rainstorm. That one will really impress the instructor.

  45. Erin

    My dog does something we call “boogie”, which is starting from a sit, he gets up, turns a circle and sits down again. Very cute.

  46. Jane

    She’s adorable – love her expression!!!

  47. Joshilyn

    Teach her to eat Feral cats. Or Feral neighbors.

    *long, level stare at neighbor’s house*

  48. Jean

    No other tricks to offer…just had to comment that Joshilyn’s recommendation seems to be the best! I am chuckling my guts out here.

  49. Ladybug Crossing

    Zeb can’t do tricks – probably because we are too lazy to teach him new tricks — oh and he’s an old dog and everyone knows that you can’t teach an old dog a new trick.

  50. Lindy

    My husband has taught our boxer Rosie “gimme some sugar.” Don’t matter what she’s doing, he says that, she’ll run over and plant a big slobbery wet one on his face. She’ll usually try to sit in his lap first, if he’s sitting down. I tried it, but if I say “gimme some sugar,” she still runs over and gives it to him. Guess smarts only go so far. :)

  51. Colleen

    Fly learned how to dance on her hind legs, beg, shake and roll over when she was a puppy. She’s now 8 and last year my husband taught her to “Bow to her Sensei”. Every morning when she would stretch her front paws out with her butt in the air he would say it. It wasn’t but a couple of days before she would do it on command and now it’s part of her treat ritual. In fact, now she’ll come stare at you and when you say “What?”, she’ll bow. Always looking for a treat, that one. My son is now trying to teach her to to “hide”. She naturally covers her eyes when you blow in her face, so that’s how we’re trying to work the command in. Tell Chicky that the Internet wishes her luck!

  52. Cheryl M

    There are tons of cute tricks out there. I personally am a fan of having our dogs bow.

    You should check out this link – it has so many really great ideas. I’d love to teach our dogs to jump rope but I’m not sure they’re coordinated enough!

  53. AnnieR

    I’ll say “who’s the boss?’ or ‘who’s the smartest dog ever?’ and Pixel will put up a paw. I turned the spin trick into ‘wipe your feet’ and I have him do it before he comes in the house. It really does get most of the mud off!

    Teaching the spin one is fairly easy, lead her head towards her tail with a treat and go in a circle. Some dogs like clockwise circles and some like counterclockwise so try both.

  54. Karate Mom

    OK, that dog is adorable!
    Ummm…I don’t have any trick ideas, though. Does she speak? That one is pretty easy to teach.
    Wow. I’m just a fount of knowledge and ideas, huh?

  55. my boyzach

    I think you should try every suggestion on here…spin, high five, pray, then drop dead. Zach learned to jump thru a hulahoop. Came in handy when he got out of the fenced yard and jumped over the hedges !! Please let us know what trick she learns, Chickie will be fine.

  56. Amy

    I’m going to come on out and be as nerdy as possible and say get her to teach Licorice to come and play dead using the spells from Harry Potter (accio and avada kedavra). If I had a dog, that’s the first thing I would teach it.

  57. Jen

    Meadow knows “arch” where she walks around to my left, goes behind me and then walks in between my legs and sits. She also “leaps” “shake”, the normal ones, sit, down, stay, etc. My mother’s dog bows to the command “Ta-da!” I also like the “where’s your tail” especially funny with dogs with stumpy tails. Basically reward anytime they look at their tail/butt, sometimes you can help by putting a scruncy on their tail to make them look at it.

  58. Leanne R

    I taught my dog to lie down when I tap my foot.

  59. mamaspeak

    We taught our two dogs to do the “hold” food on their snouts & the “ok” flip treat into their mouths together. Very cool. But it’s really two tricks “hold” & “flip”. We taught her to crawl w/”sneaky-sneaky”. She does a “high-five” which is cool, but if her nails aren’t clipped that can be dangerous. I like the bell to go outside, saves on cleaning glass doors or damaging screens.

  60. Aubri

    Okay, I love the Harry Potter Spells trick idea… Genius! I’m totally doing that with my parrot! Those would be pretty easy too, and cute!

    My friend (who is a professional trainer) has her dog do one trick that I LOVE! She’ll do it for anyone. You look her in the eye and say, “Lucy, who do you love?” and Lucy will bow down at your feet. SO cute! It’s a little tricky though.

  61. Jennifer Morgan

    Our dog closes the door after her potty break. We have a fenced-in side yard, so we let her out the kitchen door, and push the door to (don’t completely close it). When she’s done, she comes in herself, turns around, stands up on her hind legs, and slams the door. She does sometimes have to be reminded. We taught her this because we were too lazy to get up twice every time she wanted to go out. It is the BEST (and really, only) trick she does, and it is so handy! The key, of course, is the treat — and boy, does she love the treats.

  62. Megan

    Beg is fairly standard and totally adorable. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought to teach to our dog (also a rescue). And if Licorice is agile, she should be able to learn it. Start with Sit and hold her front paws up for her while saying the command – that’s how we did it. Took a few days, but like I said, it turned out not to be as challenging as I thought.

    This, too, has become a part of the obedience seizure for our dog – except that as his seizure progresses to the Beg stance, he then holds perfectly statue still in it until the desired item is surrendered. So there is a certain amount of danger there with the being unable to withhold the desired object.

  63. Bloggymommer

    We taught our dog to “crawl” across the floor for a treat. Have the dog lie down, then drag the index finger of your treat-hand across the floor until she scoots after it while still lying down

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