Dog Trick: “Sneak Up on It”
“Sneak up on it” is easy to teach and it turns your dog into a ninja. Plus, how to use tricks to help your dog cope in uncomfortable situations.
The unsuspecting morsel lies quietly on the floor, unaware of the cunning canine lurking nearby. Creeping low and slow, closer and closer, she stalks the biscuit until finally – with the stealth of a jungle cat – she pounces upon her prey! And in an instant the cookie is transformed into just another bit of energy, fueling the happy Labrador's never-ending quest to perform tricks for treats.
Today, I'll explain how to delight friends, neighbors, and passersby by teaching your dog to “Shhhh, sneak up on it!"
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“Sneak up on it” looks just like you'd imagine. Your dog crawls along the ground toward a treat or favorite toy, keeping her tummy glued to the floor like a ninja. Here’s a video of my dog, Daisy, sneaking up on a biscuit.
How to Teach “Sneak Up on It”
Teaching the trick is easy. Start with your dog lying down. Hold a small treat a few inches in front of her nose, and let her have it when she reaches forward to take it. For the next few treats, hold each one out a bit farther in front of her so she has to stretch forward a little more to reach it. Be careful not to hold the treat so far away that she needs to get up and take a step. If she does get up, just close your hand on the treat, ask her to lie down again, and practice a few repetitions a little closer in.
Gradually, in tiny increments, increase the distance so your dog gets good at shifting her body weight forward and stretching out for that treat. At this point, add just a tiny bit more distance, maybe as little as an inch. What we're after is getting Dogalini to scootch forward to reach the treat, without getting up. Practice at this level for a few minutes until she scootches automatically.
Now it's time to turn one scootch into two, then three, four, and eventually a continuous string of scootches that becomes a crawl. Again, if your dog gets up to walk instead of crawling, just pick up the treat, reset her in a down, and work from a closer distance for a bit. Add distance in increments small enough that she continues crawling to reach the prize. Finally, add the phrase "Shhhh, sneak up on it!" – or whatever cue you like -- just as you place the treat a few feet in front of her. Voilà, you have a stealthy treat predator ready to strut – uh, crawl – her new moves!
Tricks Are Practical
One of the most helpful things I can think of for any dog owner is to train a handful of fun tricks your dog can perform readily. Early on, my Daisy had a few less than delightful experiences at the vet's office being treated for stubborn ear infections. For a while, it was a project getting her from the car to the lobby to the exam room. To help her, we’d drive to the vet's parking lot, practice a few tricks, then go home. After a couple of sessions (only a minute or two each), we did the same thing just outside the vet’s lobby door. When she was clearly having a good time there, we moved into the lobby when the office wasn't busy. (The staff and her vet gave her the treats for doing tricks.) Finally, we did a few tricks in an empty exam room. Again, treats (and now butt scratches and tummy rubs) were dispensed by the friendly veterinarian, whom Daisy now enjoys visiting, thank you!
Tricks Have the Right Attitude
Another benefit of teaching tricks is that it helps you practice training in a lighthearted frame of mind that promotes a happy, relaxed attitude for both you and your furry friend. Whether you’re teaching a cute trick like "Sneak up on it," a good manners behavior like walking politely on a leash, or something even more challenging such as service work for a disabled person, it helps to take a fun, friendly approach that sets the dog up for success and enjoyment. There’s a training motto most of my colleagues like to recite: "It's all tricks to the dog."
Give Tricks Cute Names
Finally, part of what makes a trick fun is your imagination in naming it. My friend Rebecca Cann taught this to me while Daisy and I attended a class she teaches at Narnia Pet Training and Behavior. When I started training Daisy on this one, I just called it "Crawl." Same cute behavior, but no pizzazz. While I was watching a video of a practice session, it occurred to me that Daisy looked … well … sneaky, so I changed the cue for the trick to "Shhhh, sneak up on it!”
That's all for today. I’d love to hear feedback from you if you’ve tried teaching your dog this trick. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit Jolanta on Facebook, where she's The Dog Trainer, or write to her at email@example.com. She welcomes your questions and comments, and although she usually can't reply individually, she may use your question as the topic for a future episode. Thanks for reading and listening. Now, go teach your dog to be sneaky!