The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Dog Tricks


What's more fun than watching a dog roll over or play dead or jump through a hoop? Training a dog to do these things, of course! Learn how to teach a dog to perform these tricks and others with this fun, easy-to-use guide.
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What's more fun than watching a dog roll over or play dead or jump through a hoop? Training a dog to do these things, of course! Learn how to teach a dog to perform these tricks and others with this fun, easy-to-use guide.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582451053
  • Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/1999
  • Series: Pocket Idiot's Guide Series
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 4.31 (w) x 7.39 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Dog Tricks


Chapter 1 - Performance Prerequisites

Chapter 2 - Whatever Makes Their Tails Wag

Chapter 3 - A Go-Active Health Plan

Chapter 4 - Injuries

Chapter 5 - Diet: A Dog's Eye View

Chapter 6 - Fun and Simple Tricks

Chapter 7 - Mood Swings

Chapter 8 - Everyday Miracles

Chapter 9 - Leap Dog

Chapter 10 - Noisy Tricks

Chapter 11 - The K-9 Express

Chapter 12 - At Your Service

Chapter 13 - Vaudeville Vanities

Chapter 14 - The Impressionist

Chapter 15 - Pet Detective

Chapter 16 - Happy Tails to You



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First Chapter

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Dog Tricks

- 3 -

A Go-Active Health Plan

In This Chapter

  • Starting out with a clean bill of health
  • How to get your dog into a healthy routine at home
  • The importance of conditioning (for both of you!)
  • Recognizing your dog's physical potential

Because many of the activities in this book require physical exertion, your dogneeds a health clearance from your veterinarian. Dogs, being dogs, will do theirbest to please you, even when they're not feeling well. You need to recognize problemsand be sensitive when your dog is under the weather. Also, for those sworn couchpotatoes, you'll need to start with some proper conditioning before you set yoursights on the Broadway lights or sign up to run the Iditarod!

A Clean Bill of Health

What exactly does clean bill of health mean? For the right answer, I went to apro: my veterinarian.

Your Veterinarian's Approval

My veterinarian started out with a checklist:

  • Pulse. A dog's pulse should be between 60 and 160 beats per minute at rest, depending on his size; smaller dog, faster pulse. A quick listen with a stethoscope (no talking please) will tell if the blood's flowing properly.
  • Breathing. Breathing is one of life's simple pleasures. It's essential for all living things. Your veterinarian will listen to make sure your dog inhales and exhales properly.
  • Coat and skin. Different breeds have different coats. My vet likes to see a coat that's free from parasites and properly oiled. When checking the skin, it's important that it be clear and smooth. Any lumps, loss of hair, discoloration, scales, or pimples are cause for alarm.
  • Eyes. A dog's eyes should be free of mucus and hair and not too pink. A glance under the third eyelid will tell if a dog's in good health or if there's an infection or sickness elsewhere in the body.
  • Ears. A dog's ear has a big flap that makes it more likely than ours to gather dirt and moisture--which can cause an infection. Your veterinarian will check the ears to make sure they're clean and that your dog can hear what you're saying.
  • Teeth. It's a good idea to brush your dog's teeth. My vet provides me with a kit. He even insisted on one for my cat! An examination of your dog's mouth will tell if his gums are infected or if he's suffering from periodontal disease.
  • Paw pads and nails. A dog's paw pads should be soft, not rough. Avoid wear and tear on concrete or pebbled surfaces and keep your dog clear of broken glass. Your veterinarian will check his nails and cut them if they are too long. Overgrown nails are uncomfortable.
  • B ones and tissues. A proper check-up should include rotation of the major joints to make sure your dog's skeleton is aligned or your puppy's growth plates are developing normally.
  • Vaccines. Your veterinarian also will notify you of your dog's vaccine schedule. Vaccines are given first during puppyhood and are continued throughout a dog's life.
  • A sample, please. The final things your veterinarian will want to check are your dog's stool, urine, and blood to make sure nothing alien is floating inside. Bring in a stool sample and don't let your dog pee until after his exam!

Home Care

Now that you've got your veterinarian's blessing, it's time to set up a home clinicto keep your dog in shape. Brushes, nail clippers, toothpaste, cotton swabs, monthlymedications . . . these are just some of the paraphernalia you'll use to keepyour dog in top condition.


Grooming can be your worst nightmare or your best friend. If the thought of brushingyour dog troubles you, try this:

  • Start with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Call your dog aside happily, giving him a treat when he comes.
  • Take some peanut butter and rub it on a wall at your dog's nose level.
  • While he licks it off, say "Stand" and brush gently. Praise too!
  • Quit while you're ahead and increase the brushing time slowly. Eventually, your dog will consider brush times endearing.


Everyone has to bathe their dog. To make it a positive experience, lay a towelon the bottom of the sink or tub (for your dog to stand on comfortably wit hout slipping)and spread peanut butter around the edge to occupy your dog while you scrub.


Dogs should only be bathed once a month. Shampooed too often, their coat will dry out and become brittle.

My Nails, Darling

Unfortunately, dogs don't relate to the whole manicure thing the way some womendo. I hate to sound redundant, but using treats or peanut butter can calm the mostsavage beast!

The best nail clipper looks like a guillotine. When clipping, make sure you clipthe very tip of the nail, just as it starts to curl. (If your dog has light-colorednails, you can see the delicate blood vessel inside; that's the part you want toavoid!) And don't overlook dew claws or hind nails. Though they grow more slowly,they still need your attention. If nails grow too long they can crack, break, orbecome ingrown. Ouch!

If your dog's not comfortable having her feet handled, make it a part of youreveryday interactions. Handle the feet when giving a treat, petting, or feeding.Tell your dog how wonderful her feet are. Kiss them when she's sleeping. (Okay, youdon't have to kiss your dog's feet, but you can.)

If your dog is totally opposed to the clipper, you'll have to do some conditioningwork there, too. Let your dog get accustomed to the sound when you're playing ortalking to her. Then clip around your dog's paws, without coming into contact. Next,try cutting one nail--just one. Slowly build up her tolerance, one nail at a time!


God forbid you cut into your dog's tissue! Aside from it being excruciatingly painful, it can bleed for hours. To prevent excess bleeding, get a clotting solution from your veterinarian. It works like magic. In a pinch, a little bit of cornstarch will fill in--but the clotting solution is better.

Look at That Face

Dogs don't spend as much time on their looks as you do, but that doesn't meantheir facial features should go unnoticed.


Soulful, sweet, comic--your dog's eyes tell it all. It's up to you to keep theeyes healthy, bright, and clear. Don't let your dog hang her head out of the carwindow. Sure, it looks refreshing, but one pebble could knock out an eye for good!

Also, be careful when playing games or practicing tricks that call for the useof a pointy object or stick. Eyes are very tender! Take care of them and take yourdog to the doctor if his eyes get tearful, red, swollen, or itchy.

If your veterinarian prescribes eye medication, administer it carefully. Use peanutbutter on the fridge or a bowl of broth in a friend's lap to occupy your dog whileyou medicate him. Place your hand carefully under your dog's chin and pull the lowereyelid down until you see the white part. Squeeze the drops in there.

Sarah Says

If you have a longhaired breed, carefully clip the hair surrounding the eyes. Better to see you with!


I'm mesmerized by this body part. I can lull myself into a trance petting earsand it doesn't seem to matter what shape--uprights, floppy, short, or cropped. Dogsseem to love the ear massage, too.

Different dogs require different cleaning schedules, from every coupl e of weeksto daily. Your dog's activity and the weather also influence the frequency of cleaning.If your dog is an Olympic swimmer, I suggest daily cleaning before bed. In most cases,twice a month is sufficient.

To clean the outer flap, ask your veterinarian to recommend a commercial ear solutionthat will prevent infection. Soak a cotton swab with the solution and wipe the outerearflap.

If your dog's ear gets infected, follow the same procedure that was used for medicatingthe eye. If your dog has drop ears, gently lift the flap and place the medicine whereyour veterinarian has instructed.


Never, never, never use a Q-tip or poke your finger into your dog's ear. You can do irreparable damage!


There's not too much to say about the dog's nose. When I was growing up, peopleused to say you could tell a dog's mood by touching his nose. If it was hot, thedog was sick; too dry, the dog was depressed. The truth is there's no truth to thoseold wives' tales. A dog's nose can heat up in a warm environment and can dry outwhen the air is dry. If you want to know if your dog's running a fever, take histemperature--rectal style!

A dog's nose can get discolored. How? Sometimes from the sun or other times itcan be an allergic reaction to a food dish or household detergent. In such a case,use a stainless steel bowl and clean with environmentally safe products. And whenyour dog goes out into the sun, protect that nose with sunblock SPF 45!


I have one obsession: It's my teeth. I love brushing, flossing, and going to thedentist. Odd, I know. Based on this, you probably kn ow what I'm going to suggestbefore I even write it. You must take care of your dog's teeth. Though dogs are lessprone to tartar build-up than you are, they're not immune. Sure, they have more-concentratedsaliva and they chew bones and things, but this doesn't take the place of dentalcare. Without a little help from their friends (that's you), they'll suffer fromtooth decay, cavities, abscesses, periodontal disease, and tooth loss.

To keep your dog's teeth healthy:

  • Feed dry food. Crunchy is better.
  • Brush your dog's teeth once a week, using special canine toothpaste. If your dog won't settle for the brush, use your finger.


Avoid human toothpaste; fluoride and dogs don't mix.

Conditioning, Conditioning

Now that you can rest assured your dog is healthy, you need to make sure he'sin top physical condition, or has a program to get him there, before you jump intothis new activity regime. Just like humans, pushing your dog too far too fast canlead to trouble.

The Hip Bone's Connected to the Thigh Bone

If you took a look inside your little trickster, you'd see that you're a lot alike.Sure the bones are stacked differently, but they're all there, put together as perfectlyas a puzzle. And like us, dogs' bones are glued together with special tissues calledligaments. The place where bones meet each other is called a joint, and its movementand flexibility are controlled by tendons, which connect muscle to bone. Where free-movingjoints meet, the ends are protected by a layer of cartilage.

In a perfect world this puzzle would a lways be the same, but there is no suchthing as a perfect world. Each dog in the world has a unique conformation, and understandingyour dog's physical strengths and limitations is necessary for training.


If your dog's anything like me, the thought of exercising will send him flyingunder the covers. Fortunately, however, most dogs aren't like me. They love to runand play and be a part of whatever you're doing. If your dog has not been out fora good run in a long time, you'll need to ease him in slowly. Conditioning for dogsis like conditioning for us--a necessary evil.

Start with conditioning for tricks and obedience. Most of the stunts outlinedin this book don't require tremendous amounts of physical exertion. However, if yourdog has been off the training wagon for some time, keep the lessons short and upbeatto start: No more than three minutes. He doesn't have to master a trick a day.

Start with tricks that are easy for him to master and that make you laugh. Laughteris great encouragement. You can have practice sessions three times a day if yourschedule allows, but short lessons are best.

Conditioning for activities is another thing. Are you pumped up to start racingthat dog of yours over every tree and up ladders? Whoa Nellie! Your dog will wantto try everything you introduce him to, but is he ready? If your dog can't tell atree stump from an ottoman, start small. No need to conquer the world in a day.

Make sure you monitor the activity level of growing puppies.

First, take a couple of weeks to make sure your dog can handle the excitement.Go for half-mile hikes, building the distance over time. A four-month- old pup willrun until his legs can't carry him, but all that exercise can permanently alter hisgrowing muscles and cause hip problems later in life. I know--teaching your dog newstuff is a lot of fun, but you need to be the parent here and do what is best foryour dog.

Never forget the age factor. Growing pups are in the majority where sports injuriesare concerned. A young dog's energy and enthusiasm can be quite misleading: They'llwant to try everything and give no thought to the consequences. Trauma to bones andjoints is caused by overstrenuous activity, slippery footing, or excessive jumping.During your puppy's growth phase--four-and-a-half to nine months--keep his activitylevel regulated and do not encourage jumping.


Do not jump your puppy higher than the height of his elbow. Also avoid over-feeding your pup. Extra weight can strain developing growth plates!

Let's talk breeds. Picture a Dachshund: dwarfed-out legs, long body, endearingeyes, and the greatest paddle paws on the planet. Now clear your head and envisiona Boxer: upright, statuesque, proud, magnificently angled, and proportioned to aT. No one on the planet would ever ask them both for the same performance. One haslegs meant for digging, the other for running. Now go take a look at your dog. Whatbreed or mix of breeds have you got? Sure you may be all hyped for Agility trials,but if your Bulldog Mugs is snoring on the couch, don't plan on taking home any trophies.

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