Skills Needed for Trick Training
Though you can teach tricks using a cookie lure, the overall performance of your trick will be more reliable and less choppy if you teach your dog some simple skills that allow you more of a hands-off approach.
Free shaping is a skill of waiting and watching. This method uses the clicker to change a behavior from what it is now into what you want by clicking and treating approximations of the behavior. This means that you wait for the dog to offer a behavior that is on its way to the end behavior. You reward the dog for moving the behavior in the right direction. Using free shaping for teaching your dog to spin in a circle might involve clicking and treating him for gradually turning his head further and further to the right or left until he moves his whole body with it into a spin. Free shaping is a crucial skill to becoming a really good trick trainer and one that you will likely master with enough time and practice.
It is important to keep in mind that targeting is a form of luring. Once the dog is on the right track the target should be gradually faded so that the dog will perform the behavior without that assistance.
The other skill that is useful in trick training is targeting (see Chapter 7 for detailed information). Targeting is the skill of teaching your dog to touch his nose to a target, be it a hand or a yogurt lid. This skill is taught by luring with a treat at first until the dog is reliably touching the target. Then, you wean the treat away so that the dog is freely touching the target and receiving his treat separately. Targeting is used to move an animal away from you and to specify to him where you want his head to be. Targeting is a useful tool in not only building your dog's understanding of the task at hand but also building your dog's confidence.