Thursday, January 29, 2015

Useful Dog Tricks

When people think of dog tricks; the words “silly” “stupid” or “funny” normally come to mind. Sometimes even “useless” or “pointless” enters the conversation.
Jesse and I wanted to make a change to this stigma. We have been learning tricks together since Jesse was a puppy, and have had so much fun over the years; working together as a team. We know that dog tricks are not only a fun way to play and learn from one another, but a great way to build a strong and lasting bond.
With this goal in mind, we set out to let people know that dog tricks not only can be fun, but useful too; and thus “Useful Dog Tricks” was born!

Jesse loves following me around the house, and when I am doing chores he will try and help by himself. One day when I was putting away the dishes, I dropped a plastic container on the floor. Jesse picked up the dish and brought it to me. He delivered the dish with a big smile on his face and a wagging tail. He was so happy with himself! I was surprised since I didn’t ask him for help, and let him know what a good boy he was. :)

After Jesse did this, I thought it would be fun to teach him to help out around the house; since he was eager to help out all by himself. Since Jesse started trying to help me with the dishes, I started working on teaching him how to work the dishwasher. He would naturally bring me his dish when he wanted some food, so I taught him how to load his dish into the bottom rack of the dishwasher.

When he put the dish in the dishwasher, I then encouraged him to push the bottom rack back into the dishwasher with his nose. I showed him how to do it by pushing it in myself, and then I asked him to push it. He did this with such enthusiasm the first time it pushed the rack off its tracks! After he understood how to push the rack, we moved on to having Jesse shut the dishwasher door. Jesse already knew how to shut doors, but this door was low on the ground, and at a different angle than normal doors. He would have to go under the dishwasher door, and push it up into the air, before he would be able to shut it like a normal door. We did a shaping session, and within a few seconds, Jesse was going under the door and pushing it up with his nose. As soon as he understood this was what we were working on, he then raised his paws onto the door, and shut it! I cheered and told him what a good boy he was, as his whole body wiggled with delight. :)
Having mastered this trick, we started working on some more cool and useful tricks; including helping out with the laundry. I taught Jesse how to take off my socks, load them into the washer, and shut the door. Jesse would even take the laundry out of the machine once it was done, and carry the laundry basket with the clean clothes in it into another room of the house.

Then I practiced having Jesse open and close the front door for me when my hands were full from carrying groceries into the house. When I dropped an item from the bag, he would pick it up off the floor, carry it to me, and put his paws up on my leg to hand me the item like a little gentleman. We added onto this behavior by having Jesse help pick up the keys if I dropped them, or even his lead, and handing it to me from the floor.

Jesse kept picking up the new tricks really quickly, and after learning the one we were working on, he would look at me with a smile on his face and that expression of “What’s next?”

Pretty soon Jesse was able to do amazing things such as start a pot of coffee, fetch the newspaper, close cabinet and drawer doors, make breakfast, clean up spills on the floor, vacuum, take off my jacket, strip and make the beds, open and close the blinds, get the mail, pack his suitcase, give a back massage, put items away in the pantry, take out the garbage to the curb, put on a DVD or VHS, and carry his own basket to shop.
Jesse closing the cabinet door
Jesse making toast
Jesse cleaning up a spill on the floor
Jesse giving one of his back massages
Jesse putting some flour in the pantry
Jesse putting a dog movie into the VHS player
Jesse carrying his own basket while shopping
He even learned how to clean the windows.
Complete with his own special booties.
Once Jesse mastered these fun house chores, we decided to head out in public and work on some cool and interesting tricks around town.
We headed to our local Pet Store, and I taught Jesse how to load up his own mini-shopping cart with his favorite toys, and push it by himself around the store. After we finished shopping, I taught Jesse to return the big shopping cart to its rightful place in the cart collector space.

Most stores have an electronic button outside the store, which once pushed, the door opens. They are at the perfect height for Jesse to reach on his hind legs. I asked Jesse to touch the button with his front paws, and on the first try he walked up to the button, stood on his hind legs, and pushed the button with his front paws; causing the door to swing open for someone to walk inside.
He came running to me with a big happy smile on his face!
He did a beautiful job, and on his first try~

While walking at the park, I got an idea on how Jesse can help out around the community. I thought it would be not only cute to teach Jesse to pick up trash at our local park, but helpful to keep the park clean. I taught Jesse to pick up the trash, and put it in the trash bag I was carrying. He happily pranced around and picked up the trash; delivering it to me with such enthusiasm.

After learning all these cool tricks, Jesse and I put together a fun video titled “Useful Dog Tricks performed by Jesse”, set to the song “Coffee” by Josh Woodward, and uploaded the video to our YouTube channel under the username: JustJesse197.

We hope that with our videos we can inspire others to have a better relationship with their dogs.
Jesse and I have since made 3 videos in the “Useful Dog Trick” series on YouTube; each one showcasing fun, and unique ways dog tricks can be useful and helpful. They have all gone viral, with a 31+ Million cumulative view count.

Jesse doesn’t let this go to his head though, enjoying the simple pleasures in life like a nice long walk, a game of fetch, and cuddling up together on the couch to watch a movie (about dogs, of course.)
Whenever I am around the house now, Jesse is always there to lend a helping paw. Jesse never fails to amaze me with his eagerness to learn new tricks. He is continually expanding his vocabulary every day; ready for a new adventure, with that beautiful Jesse smile on his face.
Jesse has always learned new tricks with ease. We will work on a new trick for 5-10 minutes, 2x a day. He usually picks them up within the first session, and then we work on adding more tricks to the mix. We teach using relationship-based training; putting our relationship first and foremost in all that we do. All of Jesse’s behaviors are taught using exclusively positive reinforcement. Jesse is rewarded for all his efforts with treats, toys, and praise. In the face of an unwanted behavior, an appropriate one is taught instead. Training is part of our lifestyle; it is all a fun way for us to play.
 Jesse is always learning, even when we aren’t doing a training “session.” It is my job to keep him both happy and healthy on a daily basis. We participate in a wide-variety of dog related activities to fulfill both Jesse’s physical and mental needs. Learning tricks helps keep Jesse happy and his mind sharp. In addition to tricks, we play puzzle games together, and enjoy Frisbee, freestyle, and lure coursing.

When asked how Jesse can do all these tricks, I tell people that you need to have a great relationship with your dog. Jesse is my best friend, constant companion, and heart dog. He is my whole world, and I do my best to provide him the best life I possibly can. We have a beautiful bond, and I cannot imagine my life without him. When I got Jesse, I wanted a best friend and companion-and of course Jesse gave this to me, and so much more.
Having this foundation, Jesse and I have been able to do so many things I never dreamed of. When you have an awesome relationship and bond with your dog, the sky is the limit with where you two can go; together as a team.
Jesse and I have the relationship of best friend, teacher, and guide. We have mutual trust, understanding, and cooperation. If Jesse doesn’t want to do something, we stop; no questions asked. If we both aren’t having fun; what’s the point? My goal in everything we do is to have fun together, and learn from one another. Jesse has taught me so much in the time we have been together. I am forever grateful for the lessons and experiences we have been able to share.

You can find out more about relationship-based training, how Jesse and I learn from one another, and our Top 5 Training Tips, head on over to our
Training & Tricks page on Jesse’s Official Website.

Jesse and I wanted to let people know that teaching tricks to your dog can be so much more than just “silly” “useless” or “stupid”. When you are learning with your dog, you are building a great relationship with them. You will create a better understanding of one another, and fun new ways to play; all the while strengthening the canine/human bond.

The reason Jesse and I started tricks is the enhanced communication and bond that came from spending time together. Through tricks, we have our own language, and understand each other very well. He always has a big happy smile on his face, bright eyes, and a twinkle in his eye when we are working on a new trick, or practicing one he learned so long ago. Tricks have brought us towards a deeper understanding and connection to one another.

If you and your dog are building a stronger bond through learning tricks together, and having a lot of fun at the same time, then how can that be “stupid?” ;)

Stay Happy and Healthy!
~Heather and Jesse~

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