Photos of dogs balancing things on their heads have been sweeping the internet. After all, its adorable and impressive because your dog has to have a lot of self-control to sit or stand that still.
But, it’s also a great trick to teach a dog lacking in self-control how to be calm. Have a dog that’s a bit head shy? This trick will teach them that things coming at the heard are a GOOD thing!
Here is a video of the finished trick demonstrated by the talented Cohen the Australian shepherd and her talented owner/trainer Jessica Bell. You can follow Cohen and all her tricks on Facebook.
As you can see, it’s a fun and silly trick with endless possibilities.
First Things First
Your dog should have a solid stay and leave it before you start this trick. Why? The stay will help them not move (at least the bottom half of the their body!) and the leave it will help them not try to eat or sniff whatever it is that you are trying to balance on their head.
Good Starting Objects
Don’t start with a piece of food or a favorite toy that is going to be too hard for your dog. Start with a plain, flat object that has enough surface area to easily sit on your dog’s head.
Personally, I found my clicker to be a great first object with my sheltie.
Teaching The Trick
Put your dog in a sit or down stay and bring the object up toward their face. If they move their head at all, no reward. You want to move slow enough and have the object far enough away to not get a reaction from your dog. You may have to experiment to find your dog’s initial “bubble.”
When you are able to move the object toward your dog’s head and he doesn’t move it, praise and reward him with a treat.
Repeat above, gradually moving the object closer to the top of your dog’s head as long as he is not moving.
Once you have worked up to getting the object on your dog’s head, only leave it there for a fraction of a second at first. Then remove it, reward your dog and release him with your release word (okay, free, break, etc.). That way, your dog will start to learn that he has to not move until you release him.
Build up duration slowly by increasing how long you leave the item on your dog’s head.
Once your dog has gotten the hang of the trick, you can try a new object. Remember, dogs don’t generalize, so you may have to go back a step or two with the first few new objects before your dog learns that any object means “stay put.”
If you want to work with food, make sure your reward is better than whatever you are asking your dog to balance, otherwise you may encounter problems.
- Keep it fun! If your dog, especially a head-shy dog, starts to show signs of stress, you have pushed him to far – stop!
- Short sessions. This takes a lot of impulse and self-control, not to mention muscle work (see how hard it is for you to not move a muscle), so don’t expect your dog to work on this for an hour. Keep sessions to just a few minutes a couple times a day and you will have better success.
- Start with small, short objects (lower center of gravity) which will be less likely to fall off your dog. You can work up to harder objects later.
About the Author
Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. She is the founder of A Fairytail House. In her spare time, she trains and competes in a variety of performance events with her Shetland Sheepdogs and caters to her two rescue kitties. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.