There are lots of cool dog tricks to teach your dog, and many of them are easy - all you need is a bag of treats, some space to work, and your dog. The dog training tricks I will describe here range from simple and easy dog tricks through to advanced tricks for expert dogs.
Before you start trying to teach tricks to your dog, there are a few simple guidelines you need to keep in mind.
First of all, take things slow. Don't expect your dog to play dead on the first try. Putting too much pressure on your dog to perform will be counter-productive and the training will actually end up taking longer.
Second - as with any training, you want to focus on reinforcing good behavior with rewards, rather than punish bad behavior. Punishment is often confusing to the dog and, like excessive pressure, this can only be counter-productive.
Begin teaching tricks in an environment where there's nothing to distract your dog, especially if you're dealing with a young puppy. Keep training sessions under 10 minutes. It's best to teach your dog basic obedience before attempting advanced tricks.
Remember also that some dogs will pick up certain tricks faster than others. Different breeds and individual dogs will have a knack for certain movements and find others difficult. Don't get frustrated if your dog doesn't pick up the first trick you attempt - you might find later on that he has a particular skill for a certain type of trick, like jumping tricks or balancing tricks.
Besides the fact that you never have to worry about losing your keys again, and you have something cool to show your friends, their are also benefits for your dog in learning tricks. Tricks are a great way to provide mental stimulation for your pet, which is absolutely essential to raising a well-balanced dog, especially with a high-intelligence, high-energy breed.
Tricks are also a great technique for bonding with your dog, as you will grow closer together when you achieve new goals and your dog will look to you for guidance and direction. In my book, I explain how bonding is crucially important for training and becoming your dog's leader.
Trick training is essentially the same as any other basic obedience training for dogs. You encourage or lure your dog to perform the desired action, then you reward and praise when the the action is achieved.
You will find teaching tricks to be much easier with clicker training and using a target stick. Because many of the actions involved in tricks are not natural to dogs (as opposed to a basic command like Sit), they need to be broken down into pieces to be taught. Using a target stick to lure the dog's attention and a clicker to mark each "part" of a trick is much more effective than trying to do it by voice and hand signals only.
I explain how to use a clicker to teach tricks to Jack Russells in The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training.
These are some of my favorite easy dog tricks. These are all fairly simple for your dog to learn while giving impressive results.
"Shake a Paw" is a great first trick for any dog. All you are doing is teaching your dog to offer a paw to shake whenever he hears or sees a certain signal. You can teach this with the clicker training method or simply by using treats and toys as rewards.
Simply hold out a treat in a closed fist in front of your dog. Move it slightly to one side and your dog's attention should follow automatically, causing him to shift his body weight to one side. Allow him to sniff at your hand. Simply hold the treat in this way until he attempts to paw at it. As soon as his paw hits your skin, open your hand and reward him.
Repeat this process until your dog begins to understand the desired action. At this point you can introduce a verbal command or a hand signal. The signal should happen just before the desired action.
Once you have introduced the signal, you can begin to use both hands - hold the treat in one hand, and hold your other hand out flat with the palm facing up. When your dog puts his paw in your open hand, open the other hand with the treat. When your dog can do this consistently, voila! You now have a dog that can "Shake a Paw" on command.
This is another simple trick to teach your dog. This trick is meant for adult dogs, as puppies don't have the joint strength in their hind legs to hold themselves upright without hurting themselves. Don't teach this trick to a puppy under 6 months old. Again, this can be taught with or without a clicker.
To teach your dog to beg, simply hold a treat over his head to try to lure him up into a "standing" position. As soon as his front paws leave the floor, give your dog the treat (or click and reward if you're using a clicker).
At first your dog won't be able to maintain this pose for long, but you can gradually build it up by waiting longer before giving the treat. Again, when your dog becomes accustomed to the action, you can introduce a hand signal or verbal command like "Beg" to be used just before the desired action happens.
Remember this trick can be quite hard on joints and Jack Russells do often develop joint problems late in life, so keep training short and sweet and don't overdo this one.
The Spin dog trick is slightly more advanced than the other tricks described here. You will have a very hard time trying to teach this without a clicker, and a target stick also makes things easier. The target stick is not absolutely necessary but you need a clicker to mark subtle behaviors.
We will teach your dog to spin clockwise here, so you will need to hold the treat in your right hand and the clicker in your left. The general idea is to lure your dog's attention with the treat - where his nose goes, the rest of him will follow. If have a target stick, you can use the to lure his attention instead of the treat itself, but you will still need to reward him.
At first you will only aim to get him to turn his head backwards, so that he is looking over his shoulder. At this point you will click and reward. Repeat this a few times.
The next step is to lure his attention further back, bringing the treat back towards his tail so that he has to take a step with his front paws to follow it. Again, click to mark the action and reward.
The last phase is to lure him right around past the tail point in a circular motion, causing him to spin around in a circle. You can click as soon as he gets to the middle point of the spin, as from here he should naturally follow the treat through the rest of the circle.
This is merely an introduction to the fun you can have with dog tricks. There will be lots more tricks to teach your dog coming soon here on Jack Russell Lover. To take your training to the next level, you'll need to learn how to use tools like the clicker and target sticks. I highly recommend Clickertraining - The 4 Seecrets of Becoming a Supertrainer as the leading guide available if you want to teach advanced dog.