“Does my dog have to know a lot of tricks to do freestyle?” “Why teach tricks, shouldn’t we be working on heeling if we want to do freestyle?” “My dog knows a ton of tricks so we’re ready for freestyle, right?”
People ask me a lot of questions about trick training. And I won’t lie, I tell them all I love training tricks! While freestyle is much more than just tricks, novel and creative behaviors play a big part. Whether you do therapy work, freestyle, Trick Titles or just love to train, tricks are a great way to enhance your routine, your repertoire, and your relationship.
So, if you’re ready to take your basic spins and weaves and really kick them up a notch, check out my “Tricked Into Freestyle” class at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Want to give it a try? Read on to learn a snazzy weave variation that I teach in class.
Tricks of the Trade
Teaching Tricks Can Help You Become A Better Trainer!
While having a basic understanding of how to get behavior using markers, shaping, luring and targeting will make teaching more advanced tricks smoother, faster and easier, your skills as a trainer will improve as you work with your dog. Through training novel and complex tricks and behaviors, handlers will broaden and strengthen their own skills while expanding their dogs’ knowledge and abilities to learn new things.
Spins, circles, throughs, paw lifts and backing are the foundation moves that will allow you to start building new behaviors to wow audiences, family and friends. If you do Rally-FrEe, all of those moves should sound familiar. Wink wink. Although you don’t need every move to be able to start learning cool new tricks, a stronger foundation means a wider variety of possibilities and faster learning!
In freestyle and Rally-FrEe, the dog has a say in what behaviors are performed or how those behaviors are performed, making it a truly cooperative process. Because of this collaborative approach, the tricks you teach really can be as unique as your dog is! Here are a couple of fun “thru” variations with a twist, both figuratively and literally, to get you started!
Walk Back Weave and Forward Weave to Walk Back Weave
The base behavior you’ll need for both combinations is a “thru.” For this first variation, the handler will be moving backward as the dog weaves forward.
Walk Back Weave
To start this behavior:
- Cue your dog to pass thru your leg to the other side
- As he does so, move your forward leg (the leg he just passed under) back, as if taking a step backward.
- This now leaves your other leg forward for your dog to pass thru. Cue your dog to go thru and again, step back with the other leg.
Forward Weave to Walk Back Weave – with a pivot transition
In this next variation, we will combine the forward walking weave, with a pivot, then the walk back weave:
Steps to create this combination
- Start with a few steps of your forward thru or walking weave
- With your leg forward, and your dog just finishing going under, encourage your dog to stay next to that forward leg, through your eye contact, hand target or position cue.
- Put your weight on the balls of your feet, bringing your heels up slightly and pivot in place with your dog is moving next to you on the outside as you turn away, 180 degrees.
- As you turn, your far leg from the dog is now open for you to cue your dog to go thru.
- Then step back with the forward leg, providing the new opening for your dog to go thru.
- You can now step back into the walk back weave.
And, if you’re enjoying this and would like to learn more, enroll in my class which starts June 1! There are lots of tricks to choose from and you can go at our own pace.
So, whether you need to practice the base tricks or you’re ready to jump in and start learning fun new skills and creative behaviors, “Tricked Into Freestyle: From Foundation to Fantastic!” is a great way to learn new and different tricks that let your dog’s unique personality shine!