Have you ever wanted to teach your dog a trick that is a bit different than the classic “sit, stay, roll-over” but didn’t know where to start? “Cover” is a super cute trick where your dog learns to put their paw over their nose! You can give the trick any context you like, such as smelling a bad smell or looking sad/ashamed. Luckily, it is also very simple to teach!
Prepare to Teach
Your dog will learn new tricks best if they already know how how to respond to simple commands for a reward. So, if you haven’t mastered the basic obedience commands you will want to brush up on those before teaching a new trick! It is always a good idea to begin with things your dog already knows to get them in the right mindset for learning. Make sure that they are in a good mood, and appear playful and willing. Grab some treats or their favorite toy along with some tape and you’re ready to get started!
First Step: Create the Behavior
Some tricks are easy to teach because you can do something to directly encourage the behavior you want to achieve. If you want a dog to put their paw on their nose, you just have to put something on their nose that they will want to remove. I like to use a piece of tape, just be sure it isn’t too sticky! Alternatively, you can teach your dog to “target” an object like a Post-It or piece of tape and then have them target that object when it is on their nose. Using target training will help for dogs who don’t mind something on their nose and make no effort to remove it!
It will be easiest for your dog if they are laying down when you teach this trick. Place the tape on your dog’s nose, and then say your selected command such as the word “cover”. When your dog goes to scrape off the tape, immediately praise and reward. Each time they go to scrape off the tape you will reward, and be sure to say your command slightly before they pick up their paw.
Establish the Cue
After doing the trick several times over the course of several short sessions (around 5 minutes), you can attempt the trick without your prop. Without placing the tape, say your command and if your dog goes to reach for their nose immediately praise enthusiastically and reward big! You will want to do this even if they don’t touch their nose completely; reward the effort. Try again, and don’t be afraid to go back to the tape if they seem to get confused. The last thing you want is for your dog to become frustrated!
With practice, your dog will get better at associating your cue with the action. You will stop giving rewards for the efforts that don’t follow through, but you will never want to stop with the praise! Teaching your dog new tricks should always be fun, so always end your sessions before things get frustrating for either you or your dog.