Several years ago I wrote an article for the K9 Magazine called a view from Canada. It was about life with dogs in Canada. For the article I wanted a shot of a dog holding a Canadian flag. I had previously taught Tilley to "hold" items in her mouth so she obliged for these shots.
Tricks; useful or useless? Let's face it; when you see a dog that can do a huge array of tricks, you're impressed. Even the simple handshake can impress when strategically placed in a precisely perfect moment.
Trick; a clever or dexterous feat intended to entertain, amuse, etc.
Regular training and trick training are all the same; at least to our dogs. The difference for us is that basic training helps us to communicate actions from our dog that assist in living day to day. Tricks are more for entertainment purposes; although this is the simplistic way to look at trick training. Being that tricks are impressive; they can be used to elicit interest. I have often used trick training to involve the children in a family, kids love tricks and they love to show their friends the tricks that their dog can do. This alone can get the family coming together and thinking that their dog is a way cool dog.
Dogs are never too old to learn; usually it is we humans that stop teaching. I remember one training client of mine years ago; an older very serious gentleman. As we started in our training I offered that we could teach some tricks after all the basics were dealt with. He shook his head with a stern look on his face and said "no tricks." He was not teaching his dog any silly tricks. Ah; a challenge I thought to myself. So I came up with non-silly type tricks for this particular situation and slipped them into the training without using the term "tricks."
The dog was taught to "back up" which is useful when maneuvering. "Catch" was taught so that it could be used as an attention redirection and "paw" was learned to assist in nail trimming. ;) Before long this gentleman was asking "what else can we teach him?" The sky's the limit for teaching our dogs behaviors or tricks; however you want to term them. Many tricks can be taught in a matter of minutes; others are more complex and may need many separate sessions before linking a large behavior together as one.
Our dogs see no difference in learning to sit vs. learning to shake a paw. Spinning is as simple to learn; or perhaps even easier for many dogs than the down is to grasp. I love the simple fact that trick training gets people excited about training their dogs. Many people give up quickly with the boring sit, down, stay exercises but add a "high five, bow or roll over" and they light up with pride.
Any dog can learn to do trick behaviors; some are physically challenged so you might need to tweak the trick to individualize it. Also all dogs learn at different rates; and in different ways so take the time to get to know how your individual is best suited to learn. The tough thing about training anything new can be our inability to think up the behaviors and how to teach them to our dog. No trick is useless; time spent connecting and communicating with your dog is always a good thing in my books.