Disclaimer: All links are Amazon affiliate links. By using the links to make a purchase, you are helping support the site at no additional cost to you.
You may or may not have heard the name Kyra Sundance. She’s a pretty well known stunt dog trainer who has won numerous awards. Kyra and her Weimaraners have been on Ellen, The Tonight Show, ET, Showdog Moms and Dads, Animal Planet and has done stage shows for Disney. Here is a full list of everywhere she has been. She’s kind of a big deal.
Naturally, I had no idea who she was until I was collecting dog training books to read before bringing home Pickles. My mindset of “He is going to be a service dog, I must do everything right” initially led me to read every dog training book that I could get my hands on as well as turn to groups on Facebook where people have trained service dogs. I mean, there is no all inclusive “How to Train Your Service Dog” book. As I was going through books I came across one, I wish I could remember what it was, that explained, with science to back it up, why the “pack alpha” mentality and training methods were outdated, harmful to your dog, and were just a Bad Idea. Alpha training methods came from studying wolves and working on the premise that dogs are descendants of wolves. It never takes into account that dogs and humans evolved together with a relationship that was beneficial to both. Dogs would help guard flock animals, help hunt, and protect the family and in exchange would receive food, shelter and love. Win-win for both parties.
That cut my reading list down by a lot, and I decided that The Dog Whisper could bite me.
I was checking out a lot of books from the library, both physical ones and digital ones, disregarding anything that wasn’t based in positive training (and wishing those books didn’t exist because I was feeling bad for all the dogs who’s humans bought into the alpha pack leader stuff). One of the books I came across was 101 Dog Tricks. Now, I will be honest, I wasn’t sure I liked this book at first and yet I checked it out. Not sure why. I wasn’t planning on teaching dog tricks. I was training a service dog. I kept going back to that book and I realized that many of the things that someone would want to teach a service dog could be found in dog trick books because people think these are just cool things to teach a dog. I mean, if you knew next to nothing about training dogs wouldn’t you be impressed if someone showed you that their dog could open a door or turn off a light? Dog trick books are probably an overlooked resource in the service dog community.
I have a number of basic dog training books and I have read a number of things on training and psychology by people like Zak George, Victoria Stillwell, and the late Dawn Sylvia-Staniewicz. They have done their research and can tell you why positive reinforcement works and why rolling your dog into an alpha roll is damaging and teaching the dog to listen/behave out of fear. However, when it comes to dog trick books, Kyra Sundance is my go to.
“Why?” You ask. Well, because she is a competitive trick dog trainer and knows how to train trick dogs, and because her books are very easy to understand. She gives short detailed instructions that are broken down in such a way that anyone, even a child, could follow them. Many of her books even have coloured pictures demonstrating what to do.
Before I get into the trick books, I want to talk about Dog Training 101. I just discovered this book and I wish I had found it before I brought Pickles home. As a basic dog training book, it covers everything you would learn in basic obedience class such as sit, down, stay, and so forth. There is also sections in this book on overcoming fears your dog may have like the fear of the vacuum cleaner as well as behaviour problems such as digging in the trash or excessive barking. There is also a section that covers how to preform the heimlich on your dog if he is choking, a list of things that are poisonous to your dog and weird things that dogs do that is normal dog stuff that might worry you, like reverse sneezing. This book is on my list of dog training books that I think every dog owner should have around for reference.
Now for the trick books. Let’s start with a list of some useful “tricks” that can be found in dog trick books that someone might want to teach a service dog.
- Turn on and off the lights
- Open and close a door
- Ring a bell to go in or out
- Bring a drink from the fridge
- Bring in the mail
- Carry a purse or bag
- Pull on a rope (this can be used for opening drawers)
- Find keys, phone, remote, etc
- Walk and heal backward
- Spin in circles
- Weave between your legs
- Finding hidden treats and other basic nose work tricks
- Paws up
- Wipe paws when coming inside
- Retrieve leash or food dish
- Putting their toys in a toy box
- Throwing away trash
Every one of these tricks that are listed can be found in one of Kyra Sundance’s books. If you are training a service dog, you can see how many of these things could be a big help. There are a many more tricks in her books that can be adopted and adapted for service dog training.
Something that is really nice about Kyra’s books is that they all have the same basic layout with very little deviation. The process of teaching the trick or behaviour is laid out step by step and there is a troubleshooting section of the most common problem/s that you may run into teaching the behaviour.
51 Puppy Tricks is a shortened form of 101 Dog Tricks (as a side note, there is a Kids Edition of 101 Dog Tricks). If I remember correctly, every trick that is in this book can be found in 101 Dog Tricks. However, if you are only going to get one, I would recommend 51 Puppy Tricks because, in my opinion, it has more of the “service dog useful” tricks in it.
10 Minute Dog Training Games is probably the most advanced book that Kyra has put together and it has more games and tricks to starting scent training, teaching body awareness, targeting, and memory games to keep help exercise your dogs brain. This is one of the most useful books I have found. This is another book I feel should be in a dog training library.
Seriously, check these books out. You might be surprised what you find in them that could help you.