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Tricked Out!

Throwing conformation aside, most dog fanciers would agree there’s a big difference between pets and show dogs. But I like to think there’s something that meets in the middle. I’m talking about our dogs that may have once shown, but have retired to be our companions, or even those dogs that just don’t have the drive and desire to have big show careers. In or out of the ring, show dog or couch buddy, all dogs have one thing in common – their love of tricks.

Two dogs show off their synchronized tricks for an appreciative audience.

Dogs love to learn tricks and we, as dog people, love teaching them – perhaps just as much as they love learning them. Some dogs may like them more, or even be better at them than others, but all of them should have a few tricks up their sleeves if willing and able. It’s not all tricks though: it’s about teaching them to be obedient and also knowing how our dogs can respond, even in a time of emergency.

Most people are more likely to be impressed when a dog has a cool trick like “play dead” or “shake,” than hearing a list of their accomplishments from the ring. Plus, it’s an undeniable way to show that special connection you and your dog have with each other. There’s no doubt that as you give your dog a command to, let’s say “sit,” its eyes will be locked on you. After the dog sits, there is this moment when the look on its face says, “OK. What’s next? I’m ready for more.” I for one think that’s something special to see.

And did you know that certain tricks are meant specifically for socializing? Yep, that’s right. I find if I have a shyer dog one way to get them used to being around strangers is to teach it a simple trick, like the one I mentioned before – how to shake “hands” with a person. If you enter a situation, whether at a show or even at home, where you think your dog may shy away from someone it hasn’t met, that trick can be a real ice breaker. This works especially well of your dog likes food. And what show dog doesn’t like treats?

Judge Patricia Craige Trotter gets a friendly “hi” as she examines a dog in the ring.

Although some people might argue that trick training takes time away from serious competition training, that’s not completely true. After all, dogs don’t really think that way. Most people are just afraid that, if they teach their dogs these “silly” tricks, they might accidentally sit in the confirmation ring at the wrong time. I am a firm believer that, if not overdone, this problem is unlikely.

To each their own, and that means our dogs too. It’s good to keep in mind that dogs are individuals too and our relationships with them can be, and perhaps even should be, multi-layered.

Just one more reason Dogs Freakin’ Rule!

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"