4 Magic Tricks To Teach Your Dog And WOW Your Audience—Viola!

4 Magic Tricks To Teach Your Dog And WOW Your Audience—Viola!

Abracadogbra! Alakazoomies! Now that you’ve open-sesame’d your BarkBox, pull back the curtain to reveal the greatest illusionist of this generation, and their lovely assistant (YOU!). Grab your dog’s favorite treats and prepare for your next show—you won’t need any rabbits for these tricks.

1. Cup Game

Train your dog to choose the cup with the prize every 👏 single 👏 time! 👏

What You Need:

  • 3 heavy plastic cups
  • Some yummy (and smelly!) high-value treats—anything your dog REALLY loves
  1. Start with just one cup. Take a treat and put it up to your dog’s nose, then let them see you place the treat under the cup. Encourage them to “find it,” or “get it.” When they show interest in the cup by either nosing, hitting it with their paw, or attempting to knock it over, mark with a “YES!” and lift up the cup so they can get the treat.
  2. Repeat several times until your dog really gets the hang of it, then add a second cup. This time, place the treat under the same cup you’ve been using, shuffle the two cups around (making sure you remember which one has the treat!), and ask your dog to “find it.”
    If your dog noses, paws, or tries to knock over the wrong cup, place your hand over it and encourage them to keep working to “find it.” When they find the right cup, immediately mark with a “YES!” and lift the cup to let them get the reward.
  3. Now, finally add the 3rd cup and repeat. By this time, your dog will be a super sleuth and should be able to “guess” where the treat is every time!
TRICK PROVIDED BY: Laurie C. Williams, CPDT-KA |

2. The Balancing Act

It’s a dolphin, it’s a seal—NO, it’s your dog with a snack!

What You Need:

  • A larger dog treat or biscuit
  • Some smaller, yummy treats
  1. The first step is to acclimate your dog to resting their chin in your hand. Place your hand under their chin, and as soon as they relax a bit, mark with a “YES!” and treat. Repeat this over and over, adding the cue “hold” when you offer your hand. Repeat until they are very accepting of your hand under their chin.
  2. Next, as their chin is resting in your hand and you ask them to “hold,” try to place a biscuit on their nose. You may have to do this several times, but don’t give up, they’ll get it! As soon as they let you place the biscuit there and hold it, try moving your hand away, count 2 seconds, tell them to “get” it and allow them to eat the biscuit!
TRICK PROVIDED BY: Laurie C. Williams, CPDT-KA |

3. Grand Finale Bow

Up the showtime ante with a fun trick cue like “ENCORE!”

What You Need:

  • Some high-value treats your dog REALLY loves
  1. Start with your dog in a standing position. Place a treat lure near their nose, concealing it partially between your fingers. Lower the treat slightly down so your dog’s head lowers below shoulder-height. Cue the reward-worthy moment with a “YES!” and treat. Repeat until they’ve got the hang of it.
  2. Continue, encouraging your dog to lower their head farther down until the elbows begin to bend slightly and their bottom stays up. Treat each time their front half lowers to the floor and their elbows come to rest on the ground in what looks like a play bow position.

    TIP: If your dog lowers their entire body to the floor, restart back in a standing position by tossing a treat slightly out of reach for them to retrieve, or using it to lure them back up.
  3. Treat your dog repeatedly while they remain in this position, spacing out gradually to treat at every first second, and then, as they improve, every several seconds. Give a release cue like “OK!” that signals the end of their bow.

    Over time, move away from using treats by pretending to hold one in your hand and encouraging your dog to follow, reaching into a treat pouch or pocket to treat at each reward-worthy moment. Gradually fade the hand signal by reducing the distance your hand moves, encouraging your dog to anticipate and move into position on their own. Then cue and treat!
TRICK PROVIDED BY: Mikkel Becker, Lead Animal Trainer Fear Free Pets |

4. Spin

And end-of-performance twirl that’s even better than a happy dance.

What You Need:

  • Some high-value treats your dog REALLY loves
  1. Conceal a treat in your hand and hold it in front of your dog’s nose, then choose to have them turn to their left or right. Keep the treat at mouth-level and begin to move it in the direction you want your dog to spin, encouraging them to follow by rewarding any small movement. Cue the reward-worthy moment with “YES!” and treat.
  2. Once your dog is following the treat, begin to move it slightly out and to their side, arching out in a circle motion toward their shoulder and eventually toward their tail. Your dog may initially stand in place, stretching and bending their head and neck to get the treat, which can be rewarded. Eventually, aim to get movement of the paws following after the treat.
  3. Encourage your dog to turn full circle by breaking down the full spin into smaller, achievable steps. Reward your dog for turning for the lure hand 1/4 of a spin, then for a 1/2 turn, 3/4, and eventually the full spin. If they back up, simply lure them forward again, and start to move the treat in a slightly larger circle next time.

    Over time, remove the treat from your hand and just pretend to hold it, rewarding with a treat that’s concealed in a treat pouch or pocket. Once your dog has it down, you can even use a hand motion signal to perform the behavior. Gradually reduce the size of the hand motion that’s used, working toward only needing to do a small spinning motion of the hand or finger to elicit the spin behavior. 
TRICK PROVIDED BY: Mikkel Becker, Lead Animal Trainer Fear Free Pets |