Training a dog is actually fairly simple, if you have patience. Dogs are eager to get love, attention, confirmation—but most of all, they love getting treats. Once you make it clear to the dog that they get a treat when they do a trick, the dog will usually be very eager to do all kinds of tricks. I was able to begin Ponta's training at eight weeks, and he was an enthusiastic student.
First, you want to condition the puppy to the idea of getting treats and hearing certain sounds. One method is to simply throw treats to the puppy at random times and say, "Good boy!" (Or "girl," as the case may be.) You may also use a clicker at this time. The idea is for the dog to associate the sounds with the treats; after a while, the dog will do the trick for just the sounds alone.
Next, you want to associate the treats and sounds with an action the dog performs on a command. A very important point is that the dog must do these actions independently; if you touch the dog or make them do something by force, they will never learn. For example, if you say, "Sit!" and push the dog's rear end down so he sits, the dog will not learn to sit on command. The dog will learn that he gets a treat if you push down on his rear end.
The right way is for the dog, on his own, to do the action you want. Wait for a moment where the dog sits; immediately say "Sit!" and give a treat, adding, "Good boy!" Eventually, after several times, the dog gets the idea that sitting gets him a treat.
Some tricks are harder to teach because the dog may not do them naturally. For example, let's say you wat the dog to turn around in a circle. Your dog may do this, but not often enough for training. Instead, you have to work in parts. Part one is to wait for the dog to move even a little bit to the left. When he does this, say "Turn around!" and give a treat. After several tries, the dog will learn that moving to the left gets a treat. Once your dog can turn left reliably, then stop giving the treat until the dog moves more to the left. The dog will soon understand that he has to continue the turn for the treat to be rewarded. Before very long, he'll trun in a full circle. Most tricks are taught in this way. It takes a long time to get such a process started, but in the end, the dog will learn quickly.
At just 9 weeks old, Ponta was learning so quickly that I thought I could teach him 2 or 3 tricks every day. However, at that speed, he got confused. He started to do every trick, or combinations, thinking that any action he'd learn would get him a treat. He would ignore my commands and just start sitting, lifting his paw, speaking, and turning around randomly. I had to slow down and practice only one or two new tricks every week.
Some tricks are really hard; for example, trying to tell your dog to go away from you is difficult because you have a treat for him, and he wants to come towards you. Teaching a dog to stay in one place for a long time is hard (Ponta still hasn't learned that one!). Additionally, Shiba Inus will often ignore commands when they don't feel like it, even sometimes when treats are offered. When a Shiba Inu gets excited, all training is forgotten.
Now, Ponta knows as many as a few dozen tricks, as well as certain trained behaviors. For example, he knows he must never enter the kitchen. This is not a trick, but it is trained behavior. He knows he must wait in the genkan and get his feet cleaned before he can come in the house. He knows that he can't eat anything on the floor until we say "OK."
Below are a few videos showing many of Ponta's tricks, and below that, a roster of what he can do today.
|Ponta sits down
|Stay / Wait
|Ponta will stay where he is, until he feels like moving
|Ponta lays flat on the floor
|Ponta will rise from a lying or sitting position
|Ponta makes a sound (usually "Wan!" and not a bark)
|Ponta makes two sounds
|Go over there
|Ponta will walk away from you
|Ponta will lift his right paw and put it near your outstretched hand
|Ponta will put his paw on your hand if it is held up in front of him
|Ponta will turn around (to the left only)
|Ponta raises his right paw at you
|Ponta stands up fully on his hind feet
|Ponta rises up on folded back legs
|Ponta waves his paws (either when on back legs or lying on his side)
|Go to sleep
|Ponta will lie on his side and pretend to sleep
|Ponta will fall on his side and raise his paws defensively
|Ponta will roll over once (always to his left)
|Ponta will roll over to his left, and then back again
|Ponta will raise and lower his left and right paws alternately
|Ponta will kiss the correct person
|Ponta will hold still and not move when we groom him
|Ponta will not eat food until told "OK" (no command is needed)
|Get the ball
|Ponta will find the nearest toy, even if it is in another room
|Up / Down
|Ponta will go up or down the stairs
|Ponta will jump up on your lap (usually just his front legs)
|On a walk, Ponta will walk around a tree or pole to be on the same side as you