Kyra Sundance’s Pocket Guide to Dog Tricks (affiliate link) might be too big to fit in an ordinary pocket, especially if you’re a woman and all you get is those FAKE pockets!), but it’s a handy size nonetheless. It’s also much less intimidating than some of the thicker, standard-sized training books we’ve read since adopting Tesla almost six years ago.
Admittedly, at nearly six years old, my brilliant dog has mastered a good number of the 101 tricks Kyra enumerates. It’s interesting, though, how she arranges them in color-coded groups that help the dog gradually develop more complex skills based on simpler, more intuitive tricks. For example, a simple “down” command (“Settle” for Tesla, but the concept is the same) leads to “Play Dead” (“Bang!” for Tesla) and then “Roll Over,” “Take a Bow” and finally “Spin Around.”
She continues with more complex groups of skills focused on agility or acrobats, including climbing ladders and jumping through hoops, rolling on barrels, fetching their food dish and surfing.
Kyra spends a few pages diving into theory and explaining how to practice tricks. Certainly, for a pocketbook, there’s not a lot of text digging deeply into dog psychology, although she touches upon that a little.
The trainers we worked with years ago insisted that learning tricks and learning obedience were the same. Tesla begs to differ. He’s great at “Come” and “Stay” inside the house when he knows it’s play time. But out of the house-even in the backyard, he is so distracted by wildlife and sounds and smells that even the lure of treats seldom motivates him to pay attention to us. The notion of ever letting him off leash seems impossible, as we could never trust him to stop, stay, or come if he found more interesting things to explore or chase (SQUIRREL!). But still, while all his tricks are impressive, my wish would be that we could transfer those skills to an obedience level that might one day save his life.
The Pocket Guide to Dog Tricks is a handy book for newer dog owners. But as you’ll see in the video below, we picked up some fresh ideas, too.
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I would have liked for Kyra to title the “chapters” with the style of tricks, such as circus acts, mouth-based tricks (like fetching), paw-based tricks, etc.
Anyway, one trick Tesla hasn’t learned well is to fetch his leash. He often seems apprehensive about going on walks, and I’ve always wondered if he was somehow afraid of his leash.
Nonetheless, we worked on leash fetching for a few minutes, following Kyra’s guidance. Tesla picked it up quickly, although given enough time, he seemed to forget the word and fetch a ball instead. Still, he gets it about 60 percent of the time. (Well, 90% of the time if he sees a treat in my hand.)
We plan to keep The Pocket Guide to Dog Tricks in the living room for a while longer, using it as a checklist to see how far Tesla can go. And while we don’t need to teach him to turn on light switches or walk a balance beam (he taught himself to open doors), there are enough tricks in the book to keep us all occupied indoors through the long Chicago winter.