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Hang Dog

What this trick looks like:

While your dog is in a sitting or standing position, he lowers his head considerably toward the ground, giving him a “hang dog” or contrite appearance. ("Tembisa" the Ridgeback is shown here doing her vulture impersonation.)

How to teach it:

This trick is so incredibly easy to shape with a clicker.  Just position yourself face to face with your dog.  (It is up to you whether you want the dog to be sitting or standing.) 

Now, watch carefully for any downward movement of the head.  At first, the movement may be very subtle, so be quick to click & treat exactly when this occurs. If the dog just stares at you for lengthy periods of time without budging, you can try moving your foot or tapping it on the ground a bit just to get the downward head movement jump-started.  Fade out this extra assistance as soon as possible.

When you see the dog is beginning to catch on to this head-dipping behavior, start raising your standards gradually.  In other words, begin selecting for lower head dips, until the dog’s posture really starts to resemble a vulture’s stoop!  When the dog is offering this “hang dog” behavior reliably, start adding your cue.  Make up any cue you like for this trick.

Once you’ve got a nice, low head dip, you can work on teaching the dog to hold this position longer.  Do this by delaying the click/treat just briefly at first, in order to encourage the dog to hold the position a little longer.  When the dog can hold the position successfully for one second, go on to two seconds, etc.  Keep working on this aspect of the performance until the dog can hold his head in a low position for at least a few seconds.

Side note: Be careful what you are clicking!  Sometimes the dog will offer a head dip as well as a variety of other small behaviors (like paw movements).  Be careful to select for “clean” performances of the head dip only, without other “tag along” behaviors!


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