Episode 31: Why You and Your Dog will Love Having “Fun with Tricks”

00:00:00 Corey McCusker
Hello, dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Training Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach, and today I’m thrilled to have with me, Nancy Brouillard , one of my valued team members who does agility and trick training let me tell you a bit about Nancy. Nancy loves to train and compete with her own dogs as often as she can, and has been involved in competitive dog sports over the last 10 years. Training competitively in several different sports, including Agility, Dock diving, trick training, and most recently, Hoopers, with her own dogs, has provided her with a rich and well rounded knowledge of positive reinforcement based training methods. Nancy’s Boston Terriers have achieved first place podium placement in agility at a regional level three consecutive years, and a third place podium placement at the national level in 2019. Her dogs have reached master level and expert level in Agility and have many titles in Agility, Intermediate Trick Training, and Canine Good Neighbour. Recently her dogs Trinity and Skyler Blue starred in two different television series. Nancy looks forward to passing her skills and knowledge on to students and families to assist them in creating a well rounded family. Nancy is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Agility Association of Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club, canine performance events, and Canine Hoopers of Canada. She has volunteered with St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog Program since 2011 and is a Provincial Therapy Dog Evaluator Trainer and a Therapy Dog Evaluator in York Region. Nancy lives in York Region with her husband and three Boston Terriers and is mom to two adult children. She has been teaching young to not so young humans professionally for over 30 years and has decided to combine her passion for dog training with teaching in her semi-retirement. As a lifelong learner, Nancy continues to upgrade her animal training skills and knowledge through courses and seminars, both in-person and online, including world level competitive Agility, leash reactivity, reactive dog handling, separation anxiety, pet first aid and CPR and has attended many conferences, including the Aggression in Dogs Conference in 2023. And we are thrilled that Nancy has taken time in that very busy schedule to be a member of our team at Mutz with Manners™. At Muttz with Manners™, our goal is to enrich the lives at both ends of the leash. And today, we want to share one of our classes that we’ve just added on that we know will do just that. And that’s Fun with Tricks. So welcome, Nancy.

00:03:04 Nancy Brouillard
Hi, Corey. Thanks so much. I’m really looking forward to talking about one of my favorite topics.

00:03:11 Corey McCusker
And thanks so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule. You and I met when we were evaluating at St. John’s and that’s where we got talking and I would listen to you talk about all your dogs. And then we went and took a TV workshop together and I saw your little Skyler doing some great things. Both of your guys were there, I think.

00:03:32 Nancy Brouillard

00:03:32 Corey McCusker
That’s when we got talking about how your skills would be so valuable on the Muttz with Mannerz™ team. So now we’re going to talk about the Fun with Tricks and what it’s all about.

We did introduce trick training in 2023, and those that have attended classes loved it and just, I’ve had so much fun. I know I’ve been in the class with Skye and she is just such a smart girl that this is a really nice piece tip for me to add to her repertoire, our repertoire too. So I know you’ve mastered many tricks with your dogs and those skills have taken you to new journeys, which we want you to talk about.

You know, we say, well, I just mentioned that you’ve had your dogs on TV series and that’s like so cool. For our listeners today, we want them to be aware of what it actually, what is actually involved in the trick training, but before we get to that, let’s talk about how you got interested in tricks and your dog’s ability to do them.

00:04:33 Nancy Brouillard
Sure. Well, first of all, I love teaching dogs tricks. It’s not only fun, but it also helps to enhance our bond and our dog’s well-being. I’ve taught my own dogs tricks, it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed. I had a therapy dog named Brody, sadly he passed away in 2020, but I wanted to do something when we visited in seniors residences or when we went to libraries or schools.

So basically what I did was I taught him a few simple tricks, one of them was to wave goodbye and it made everyone smile. The kids had grins on their faces, the seniors loved it. They looked forward to saying hello and goodbye to him whenever we went by for a visit. I taught both my newer Bostons, Trinity and Skyler, some more complex tricks that they needed to use for TV, and when you’re on TV series you really have to use some hand signals as well as verbal signals and in the case of the series that one of them was on it was all the hand signals that they had to do. So I taught them using hand signals for instance looking in different directions, running away from me, out the door of a bedroom in one scene.

That was all with hand signals, even looking at a random spot on the floor and barking. That was one of the harder tricks to train because eventually there was going to be this CGI little dragon on the floor. But when we were doing the filming, there was nothing there. So this dog had to figure out how to look at something that wasn’t there and bark.

00:06:06 Corey McCusker

Nancy Brouillard
All done through hand signals and basic training of tricks. So these were some of the tricks that were required in the series. But most of our listeners have already taught their dogs several tricks and they don’t even think about them as being tricks. So for example, sitting. Sitting is a command that’s a trick. A down, a come, a stay, a stand, go to your crate, go to your bed, or go to a place, they’re all cued behaviors, but they’re also tricks. So when you’re teaching these commands or tricks, it’s a great way to bond with your dog while reinforcing desired behaviors. It helps to stop the dog from doing unwanted behaviors and it helps to keep them out of harm’s way. If you need them to stop and down or come back to you right away because there’s some, you know, something that’s harmful, you need to know that they’re going to be able to do it. So while they are thought of as behaviors, they’re also tricks. Teaching tricks is also a great way to provide your pet with mental enrichment, as well as physical exercises, especially in the cold winter months coming up.

When I couldn’t continue to do face-to-face classes like Agility or Dock Diving, when there was a pandemic, I needed to keep my dog stimulated. So I explored tricks online training and that did the trick, no pun intended. I had the opportunity to get my dogs into TV and film workshops, like Corey mentioned, and there I did some more training, and I expanded my knowledge in teaching all kinds of tricks and behaviors that I hadn’t even thought of before.

00:07:45 Corey McCusker
Yeah, and you know what, that workshop that we did, I think, too, that’s where I want to explore, talking about the tricks, because I think some people go, like, sometimes you see the dogs do a trick, or, I mean, there’s tons on YouTube, and that you’ll see, you know, them doing everything. And I think even I was shying away from doing the tricks, because I wasn’t really sure if my dog could do it, and how do I do it? And I know we’ll touch on that a little bit. But when you do see your dog do something like the wave, I was like, there’s no way my dog’s going to wave. And then you went and took us through the steps to do it. And now Skye waves. So I’m like, Hey, watch Skye can wave. Skye can wave. Everybody’s like, Oh my God, that’s so cute.

We just had an open house and I’m like, Skye wave to everybody. So, and that’s where you even talked right now just about some of the simple things. I mean, if we can teach our dog the sit, the down, and all of those things is, there’s a method to that, and I think people don’t understand there’s that method can be transferred into doing some of the tricks, too.

00:08:45 Nancy Brouillard

00:08:45 Corey McCusker
So if someone was interested, what would it look like, or what would happen if they were to take a Fun with Tricks class?

00:08:54 Nancy Brouillard
Well, the first level that we’re just finishing up right now, we begin with really simple tricks. So we talked about the tricks that most people already have taught their dog, or if they haven’t, we’ll go over some of those. But also tricks such as spin, crawling, so crawling along the ground, the wave that you just talked about, take a bow, which is also a lot of fun or curtsy, play dead or lie on your side. Also get inside a box, get inside a box, could also turn into get inside a suitcase, which is a really fun trick some people might have seen on YouTube.

Bring your toy or bring something, ring a bell, head tilt, which is fun, and a lot more. We also introduce dogs to different obstacles that we’ll play with during the classes. So we’ll use hula hoops, we’ll use wobble boards, we’ll use ladders. Some of these things are also to encourage the dog to, you know, gain some self-confidence as well, and also trust with the owner.

So we’ll introduce different obstacles as well during the classes for the dogs.

00:10:00 Corey McCusker
That’s great.

00:10:00 Nancy Brouillard
And, yeah, we’ll also talk about during class, because not everyone has wobble board at home or a ladder at home, so we’ll also talk about how they can make really simple things at home to practice the tricks.

00:10:12 Corey McCusker
Yeah, I think that’s really good, too. All right, so, is Tricks for everyone? Does an owner and a dog have to have certain skills before taking a class?

00:10:23 Nancy Brouillard
So, it’s definitely easier and suggested that you’ve previously worked with your dog on basic obedience, like what’s taught in Puppy Mannerz or Foundation skill classes offered at Muttz with Mannerz™.

But regardless of your dog’s age, your experience level or their level, you’ll have a happier dog and a stronger bond when they learn tricks or when you teach them tricks. So again, start with the easy tricks that your dog naturally will do, like sit and down. You encourage that by luring. So when we’re luring, we’re using treats to sort of get them to move into a position.

If your dog naturally lies on their back, for example, with their legs in the air, they’re doing what’s called a belly up trick. So we can reinforce this by capturing that behavior. We reinforce it with a treat. We call this shaping. So when I’m teaching the trick, I’ll say this is a shaping, this is a luring, and so that people who are taking the class, our listeners, will know the difference about how to train different tricks.

Once your dog figures out that the behavior that they’re doing is what’s earning them the treat, then you give it a name, or a cue word that you’ll use to ask them to perform the behavior in the future. So, you might say, roll on your back, or you might say, legs up, whatever it is that you’re going to use, once the dog understands that that’s what they’re getting treated for.

00:11:50 Corey McCusker
And you know, at Muttz, we have the Canine Academy where I have the dogs are in daycare for the day and I’ll be working with them training and I’ve incorporated the tricks because I just think it’s a great thing, in addition to the basic obedience, like all of that, it’s like to do the spin or the crawl or the lie down or whatever, like the play dead or whatever you call, which I hate calling it that, but still. But that’s where I, it’s just to see them and that’s where I work with some of the younger dogs, but I’ve actually worked with some senior ones too, which, it’s, you can teach an old dog some new tricks.

00:12:24 Nancy Brouillard
Absolutely. Absolutely.

00:12:26 Corey McCusker
Yeah. What about the owner and the dog’s ability? What if you have a dog that’s reactive and not used to being around other dogs?

00:12:35 Nancy Brouillard
Trick training and agility are actually often recommended for reactive, anxious, or fearful dogs. It helps the dog to focus on something fun, instead of the triggers that are causing the reactivity. So it’s actually a good thing. It helps to boost their confidence when it’s done at the dog’s comfort level.

So at Muttz for Mannerz™, our intro to trick training is based on the needs of the individual dog and their comfort level. We include working at a distance, keeping the dog on a leash at all times, We can use barriers like an X pen fence barrier to separate dogs if required to ensure the safety of all of the dogs that are there.

Dogs love to play with their owners and are often distracted and uninterested in their triggers when they’re playing and having fun. They may also come to associate being around the triggers of the other dogs if they’re reactive, positively if it also means that they will get to have fun playing with their owner while they’re there.

As a pet-parent, you know your dog best. You’ll need to pay careful attention to your dog and its mental state to prevent them from crossing the threshold to becoming reactive during class.

00:13:45 Corey McCusker
Yeah. And you know what? That’s so true because it’s amazing for me to watch as a trainer. And I know you’ve seen this too is, so you’ll have a dog that comes in and they might be, they at first are like staring at the other dogs. They might, you know, you might see some of the body language, it’s going to tell you they may be triggered. Then they start working with their owner and it’s great. This is also the case I’ve noticed when a dog comes in and they think it’s play time. So this is not a reactive dog, but they’re like, Oh, there’s another dog, let’s go play. But then all of a sudden the owner starts working with them and that bond is there. And then all of a sudden they’re just a focused team and, and they’re learning, which is really great to see.

00:14:23 Nancy Brouillard
Uh huh, and I mean you want to be the dog’s focus, so you want to be more fun than the other dogs.

00:14:29 Corey McCusker

00:14:29 Nancy Brouillard: And having treats and having a lot of fun tricks and a lot of time that you’re going to spend with the dog, that’s only going to increase the bond between you and the dog, and then they’ll want to spend time and attention with you and not the other dogs, so . . .

00:14:42 Corey McCusker
Yeah, so you just mentioned the bond, so let’s talk about some of the benefits actually of trick training, which I know that’s one of them. So what do you know, what would you say the benefits would be?

00:14:52 Nancy Brouillard
Well definitely strengthening the bond between the dog and the owner, because we’re having positive interactions, we’re working on teamwork, we’re fostering a deeper connection, we’re spending time together. So I always tell people that kind of this is our hour together, everyone has busy lives.

You’re rushing to get to class, perhaps, but now this is your hour to just spend with you and your dog. So, you’re going to be engaging with them, helps to build trust, mutual understanding, and loving and respectful relationship between you and your canine partner.

Also, the dog is going to have more mental stimulation when they’re performing tricks or learning the tricks. It requires problem solving skills on their part, especially when we’re doing the shaping tricks, where we’re waiting for the dog to figure out what it is that they’re supposed to be doing. You’ll see the wheel spinning, and you’ll see them thinking about it.

They’ll spend a lot of energy problem solving, which helps prevent boredom, reduces anxiety, and overall cognitive health in dogs is improved. That’s another benefit. Physical exercise, you know, again, like I said, we’re coming into winter, so we don’t necessarily all want to be out walking in the ice or snow, but you can do these tricks in a small space at home. It gives the dog physical activity. They can be jumping, spinning, going, you know, using obstacles and it incorporates movements that they might be doing, keeps them active and fit, and that will help to increase or build muscle tone, increase flexibility, balance, concentration, obedience and communication skills as well. You’re enhancing those.

When you’re teaching tricks, dogs learn to respond to your cues and commands, has a positive impact on their overall behavior. Like you said, they might be staring at another dog when they come in or want to bounce around. And you’re going to engage with them and their behavior is going to calm down and be a lot more settled.

Dogs that have some confidence issues . . . It helps to build their self-confidence, especially when they do something right and we’re saying , Yay, and clapping or, Good dog, all the time, giving them treats really helps with their self-confidence, reinforcing them and they get more comfortable in various situations.

Using the wobble board for example, we see dogs starting out fearful of something that moves to jumping all four feet on it and not thinking twice about it.

00:17:28 Corey McCusker

00:17:29 Nancy Brouillard
So it takes the fear out of making mistakes as well with positive reinforcement.

00:17:34 Corey McCusker
Yeah. And you’re talking there about the dog’s confidence at Muttz, we’re all about enriching the lives of both ends of the leash.

00:17:40 Nancy Brouillard

00:17:41 Corey McCusker
I will tell you the owner’s confidence, because I mean, that’s where, like I even said, Oh, I’m not sure if Skye can do this wave. And then I’m like, Hey, I must be a pretty good trainer. Look at that.

00:17:50 Nancy Brouillard
Exactly. Exactly.

00:17:52 Corey McCusker
I’m a good teacher. But no, I think it’s great. And you’ve made some really good points there.

So let’s talk about the whole process, I guess, of the training, well, we won’t get into it too much, but how long does it take to teach a dog a certain trick?

00:18:06 Nancy Brouillard
Well, every dog is different as you know, so some dogs may learn it right away and others will take some time. Commitment and consistency and patience on the part of the owner is crucial.

So at Muttz with Mannerz™ we offer different levels. Each level has six sessions. During the class you will learn, so the owner will learn, how to teach the dog the tricks. And your dog should be able to learn most of the tricks by the end of the six sessions. But remember, how long it takes your dog to learn each trick depends on your dog. It depends on the individual dog. Tricks that are hard for some are easy for others. And remember, you’re learning the tricks, so you’re going to be able to continue to train the dog the trick. And you’re going to figure out what works for them. Repetition and keeping the training sessions short, especially if your dog’s easily distracted. It also avoids frustration and boredom, which is key for your dog to learn. So we encourage the pets to continue training the tricks after the six sessions until the dogs have mastered them. Tricks learned in the class can be expanded and changed into other tricks. We talked about that a little bit. So for example, fetch, can later be expanded to pick up an object that’s been dropped. Pick up your keys, you know, if you drop your keys or something. Hold an object in their mouth for a picture. So, how often have we seen dogs and we think, I’d love to have my dog hold a basket or something for a picture. So, we can do that. We can have them carry their toy, walk around the neighborhood. One of my dogs loves to carry her toy around the neighborhood when she goes for walks. Or they can even hold the leash and walk their first sibling if you have more than one dog at home. So we talk about how to expand the tricks that we’re training in class, each class for those who are interested. We talk about some other things that can be done with the tricks that they’re learning.

00:20:03 Corey McCusker
So that’s good. And I do think, you know, you mentioned the commitment, the consistency, the patience. If you’got to do that work in between too. And it even, I think you said it’s, doesn’t even take a long session. It can just be repetitive, but you can be short and sweet.

00:20:20 Nancy Bouillard

00:20:21 Corey McCusker
And just making sure you’re reinforcing it. Because once they’ve learned the trick, you can use that every day for, you know, you’re feeding them. So instead of making them wait, you might say, Okay, do a trick. I mean, I used to have three small dogs and I’d make them synchronize spin before they got to eat. And it was really cute. So it’s like, you know, I use the tricks that I do and I even with Skye now, instead of just making her sit and wait, I’ll make her do the wave for because I’m just trying to reinforce it. So I use it in my my daily routine too. So we talked about benefits and we’ve talked about the reactivity and I just want to know, is there anything, are there any dogs that aren’t suitable or don’t do well in a trick training class?

00:21:03 Nancy Brouillard
If a dog doesn’t have a strong enough bond with the owner or if the dog has a lot of fears or phobias or they’re just not able to perform in an emotionally safe way, then they might not be a good candidate for the class. So sometimes previous training techniques such as using a deterrence to interrupt a misbehaviour, like shaking a can, may teach a dog what not to do, but doesn’t teach the dog the desired behavior, desired response.

This form of negative reinforcement or punishment may lead to anxiety, lack of a bond, or even fear of the owner, phobias, or even problems such as aggression. We use praise and redirection to an acceptable behavior, or otherwise known as positive reinforcement training using rewards. And this will gradually help to shape the dog into developing more successful responses.

But at a minimum, we need to ensure that the dogs that are enrolled in our class are emotionally stable and safe to be around other dogs and people, and that the pet-parent has enough control over the dog so that there is a successful response to the commands given.

00:22:15 Corey McCusker
Yeah. And I know just, even not even teaching just the tricks, but when we teach some of the classes, like I, if I look at my puppy classes, some of them will come in and they’re bouncing off the walls, but there’s that 1 or 2 puppies that are just so nervous in the corner and they won’t take a treat. There’s no motivation there. They’re terrified and that can be, you know, somebody might rescue a dog and and they might say, Oh, this will be great for them. And then they come into this strange environment and they’re just not ready for it.

So, and you mentioned, you know, some of the previous training techniques. So, we do want to make sure that if the dog comes into the class or that we’re even working with them, that they’re motivated, they’re emotionally stable, that they want, most dogs want to please if they’re in the right frame of mind. So if it’s a class doesn’t work, you know what, I do a lot of private stuff too. That’s where your dog might be really at home and there’s nothing stopping us from showing you a couple of tricks that you can do with them at home and that too. So yeah, so those are some good points.

So, Nancy, any last words as we wrap this up? Because we’ve talked quite a bit about, you know, the benefits, what it is, some of the things that they can actually learn with the tricks. So, any last words about the tricks and the having fun with it?

00:23:26 Nancy Brouillard
Just remember tricks are like teaching obedience, as we started out talking about, you know, sit down, stay calm, all of those commands that we think about as obedience. Tricks are no different than that. So you’re teaching a skill and you’re building a stronger bond with your dog at the same time. It’s going to take time and it’s going to take patience, but it’s a lot of fun. Like I said, I love training tricks. That’s one of my fun things to do. And that’s why I like talking about this topic so much. For those who want to go on to earn a trick title, there’s also a novice trick dog title that can be earned. And all the tricks that we train in the class are tricks that are required to earn this title. So if anyone’s interested in that, we could certainly help to facilitate them entering and getting their novice trick dog title.

00:24:17 Corey McCusker
Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, that’s what we like. We like getting them to be a little bit of competitive, but no, I mean, it’s really about fun with us, but if they definitely want to have that title, then we can definitely look after that. And I just love the tricks and so does Skye. And we are, as I said, we’re thrilled to have your expertise on the team to share with other pet parents.

So, Nancy, I want to thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your knowledge with the trick training and your experience with your own personal dogs. And for more information about Nancy and Muttz with Mannerz™ classes, you can visit our website at www.muttzwithmannerz.com. It’s also provided in the show notes.

If you are interested in future podcasts or reading our blogs, you can also go to our website. And also, if you’re interested in us doing a certain podcast and you would like us to share more information about a certain topic, please email us at, info@muttzwithmannerz.com. Nancy, thanks again. Our goal, as I said, is at Muttz with Mannerz™, is to enrich the lives at both ends of the leash.

So thank you listeners and have a great day, everyone. Thanks, Nancy.

00:25:26 Nancy Brouillard
Thank you.


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