Trick of the Month: Take a Bow

Now that it’s getting colder and it’s dark at 5:30, it’s time to start thinking of some indoor activities you can do with your dog. One great activity to do with your dog while stuck indoors is working on training and learning tricks. Last month I introduced the new “Trick of the Month” series with an easy one, “Shake Paw.” Since now you have a lot more time to focus on training due to the cold weather, this month we’re taking it up a notch with a slightly harder trick – “Take a Bow.” Hunter and I have been working on it and we’re getting close. I’m trying a combination of “capturing” since he does this move on his own often and short training sessions daily.

Read on for step by step instructions from Robin at Fortunate Fido for teaching your dog to “Take a Bow.”

It’s trick time!

Let’s step it up this month with a really neat, but not-too-difficult trick—take a bow!

Keep in mind the basics for teaching tricks from last month

1) It’s a trick—it needs to be fun. Keep it that way. Use positive training techniques only.

2) Choose a sound to mark the correct behavior. This can be a clicker, or a specific word, like “yes.” This is how you communicate to your dog that he has done something correctly.

3) Be patient. Some dogs are great at one trick and have a tough time with another. Eventually, you’ll figure it out—or pick a different trick. Not everyone can be an expert at everything.

Now for the Trick-of-the-Month!

Take a bow is a great trick because after it is mastered, you can keep working on it by increasing the distance between you and your dog to make it even more impressive. It is also a pose that lots of dogs use on their own as a nice stretch after a nap. Because of this, you might be able to use the technique of capturing (marking when the dog naturally does the behavior).

To capture this behavior, have your clicker ready and SECRET treats in your pocket when you let your dog out of his crate or when you know he will be likely to offer that nice rear-up stretch. If he does it, click and treat (a surprise treat is very powerful). Try to be at the ready during these times, and after a few successful clicks/treats, add the cue “Take a bow.” This sounds easy and fun, but in reality, it is not all that easy to capture behaviors. If you are successful, pat yourself on the back. You’ve done well!

If this doesn’t work out for you, don’t fret. I have only successfully captured one trick behavior so far, which I will reveal when it is the Trick-of-the-Month. To actively teach this trick, we will use luring and shaping.

1) Start with your dog standing either beside you or in front of you.

2) Place a treat in front of his nose (the lure) and move your hand towards his chest and slightly down.

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3) Click and treat as soon as you see his weight shift toward the back and his elbows bend AT ALL. This is the shaping part. We will reward tiny steps toward the final product rather than trying to get the final product right away. This reinforces the idea that the rear should stay up. If you keep moving your hand without these intermediate reward steps, your dog will likely fold into a down (which is nice, but not what we are after here).

4) Gradually ask for more elbow bend before the reward, ignoring any tries where the rear folds down, until you get something that looks like a bow.

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5) Add a cue “Take a bow!” and then lure the full behavior. Over time, the dog will begin to respond to the verbal cue and you can fade out the lure. Don’t fade out rewards, though! Your dog just did a cool trick for you, it’s ok to give him a treat!

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Robin Murray is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor. She enjoys teaching tricks classes and competing with her three dogs in agility, rally, obedience and nosework. Check out Fortunate Fido at www.fortunatefido.com