Anyone who hikes with the boys and I are always amazed at some of my dog’s trail tricks, their favorite being “on a rock”. My friend Ann Bond does this with her dogs and when I saw it years ago, a lightbulb went off for me. “What a great focus tool” I thought to myself. At the time I had newly adopted Mick and he had a very strong prey drive. So I started using the “on a rock” trick to focus Mick onto me, and it worked!
I incorporated this trick into my Trail Class that I taught and everyone loved it and the dogs really loved it. For Mick, when he is getting on rocks and waiting for me, I know he is “with me”. If he is in his hunting mode and seeking things in the forest and not getting on rocks when I ask him, then he goes on leash until he can focus again.
Romeo just loves the trail trick and jumps on about 50 rocks in an hour hike, of which I will only reward 8-10, but he still tries, he thinks “is this one good enough for a treat”. When I do give him a treat he is so joyful.
So here are the details.
Goal: When you are out and about, you say your word for the behavior point or show your dog which object you want them onto, your dog jumps up onto something like a rock, log or a bench. You deliver a treat and then release with your release word.
Why it’s a good behavior: Your dog is focused on you when you are outside. He is looking for the next object to jump onto. It’s fun! It will make you laugh! It’s very engaging for you and your dog, deepening your relationship. It makes you interesting on the trail. Your dog will focus on you rather than dogs, people or wildlife. The trick is great for picture taking. The reasons are endless, but I guarantee, you and your dog will love it.
1. Lure your dog with a moist, tiny treat up onto a rock that he can jump onto. Not too high, you don’t want shoulder injuries.
2. As he/she gets on the rock, say your word “rock” (call it anything you want, just be consistent).
3. Repeat many times.
4. Respond with glee when they are on the object.
5. When your dog is proficient in getting onto rocks, you can work on sits, downs, stand, stay on flat surfaces. It’s really fun!
6. Use your release word, “okay” or whatever you use to get off the rock.
7. If your dog gets into the game and begins to offer the behavior a lot (like Mick & Romeo), begin to only reward the really good ones or only the ones that you asked for, your call.
8. I set some criteria for rewards. You set your own, here are mine. If you make me laugh, you definitely get a treat. Individuality gets a great. If you are balanced like you are on a ball, you definitely get a treat. If you have been distracted and now are focused and on a rock, you have earned a treat. If you waited for me to take a photo (this happens a lot), you have earned a treat. Like I said, you set your own criteria for your dog.
9. If your dog keeps upping the ante, like getting higher and higher, help them down and do not reward these high places. I’ve encountered that with my dogs. Only reward safe places.
10. When I’m not going to treat a dog on a rock, I just say “good rock” “let’s go”.
11. You can use “rock” to get your dogs off to the side of the trail when people or bikes are coming. It’s a great way to distract your dog from anything that you need to, other dogs, people, noises, bikes, bears, deer.
12. The photo opportunities are endless!!!
13. Downside, your dog might want to jump on tables. You might not encourage picnic tables. Uh, oh, I have this problem!
14. Use one word for getting on to things. Mine is rock, so if I want them to jump onto a log, the cue word is still “rock”.
15. Here is the next step of the trick. If you have a “wait” or “stay” try this: Once your dog had conquered the “rock” trick, now have him “wait” on the rock, you go ahead 10-20 steps, then release and call him/her to you. My dogs go crazy for this trick and now you are practicing three different things, rock, wait and come.
I hope you find some Adventure this week with your dog.
Take Your Dog Along, it’s almost always more fun when you do.