How To Make Your Dog Useful

There are more than 450 million dogs in the world right now, making them one of the most popular pets. What people often forget is that training your dogs isn’t just an annoying necessity but it can be really helpful too.
I originally trained my dog to do these tricks for movies, but since I am an incredibly lazy person, I soon started to use them in day-to-day life.

So if you have a dog, keep reading because here are 5 tricks that will make your life easier and how to teach them:

  • “Go find ___”
    It happens to all of us: Losing our keys, phone, etc. Luckily dogs have an excellent sense of smell and can sense objects even when they are far away or packed in air-tight containers. So it only makes sense to let your dog search for your keys/phone from now on.
    How to teach this:Make the item dog-friendly
    Obviously you don’t want the dog to take the keys or your phone directly into their mouth because it can damage both item and dog. So attach a small key chain, or a dog friendly cover to your item.Get the dog interested in the item
    You can do this either by simply playing around with the item, so the dog wants to grab it or rewarding contact with the item with treats/clicker training.

    Let the dog fetch the item
    Either throw your item or place it somewhere and let your dog fetch it. Again, you can reward the dog with play or treats.

    Put the item on cue
    Now, whenever the dog fetches the item, say: “Go get my keys!” (or whatever you want your command to be), and reward and praise it specifically with: “Good keys!”.

    Hide the item
    Now don’t put the item into plain sight anymore but hide it somewhere. Increase the difficulty as you progress in training. Keep in mind to train in places where your item could actually be in a realistic situation.

  • Train!
    Practice makes perfect! Remember that this will only work if you continuously reinforce the command as time passes. You can of course apply it to different objects at a time too.Use
    Tip: Whenever you actually need this trick (or any trick), make it seem like a training exercise.

    My dog performing this trick:

  • Clean Up!
    Cleaning up can be a real pain so it’s very practical that dogs will be enthusiastic about pretty much everything if there is food or play involved.How to teach this:Teach the  dog to pick up items on cue
    This is a relatively easy but very basic command that the dog will have to know from now on. Take a random item, for example a toy, and reward the dog for any mouth-to-item contact it makes until it holds the item fully in its mouth. Do this with as many different items as possible. Once the dog knows what it has to do, put the behavior on a cue, such as “take it”.

    Teach the dog to put away items
    Now the dog knows how to pick up an item put up a very big container or box and sit down next to it, holding your hands over it. When the dog is holding the item, motivate it to come to you and then tell them to drop the item. Give them lots of praise if the item happens to fall into the container and if it doesn’t, just stay motivated and try again.

    This is a pretty difficult trick for a lot of dogs and may take a lot of practice to drive it to perfection. The outcome should be that you point at an object, the dog picks it up, you tell your dog where to put the object and it does it. Vary as much as you can during training, taking different objects to pick up and different containers to put them in to.

    This trick is especially useful, since you can use it for a lot of different situations. Personally, I often let my dog clean out the washing machine or throw away garbage. Don’t forget to reward the dog every single time it does this trick, also in real situations.

    Two ways to use this trick:

  • “Bring me___!”
    It’s really annoying when you just got into a comfortable position, like in front of the TV, and have to get up again because you forgot something. Well from now on you won’t have to do that anymore!
    How to teach this:Essentially this trick works like “Clean Up” only that instead of bringing the item to a container of some sorts, the dog has to bring it to you. So start with teaching the “pick up” command I wrote about before and combine it with fetch and you are done!

    Always make sure that the item your dog should get is safe for the dog and also won’t be damaged if the dog happens to drop it!

    A more advanced version:


  • “Take off my socks!”This is a trick for high-achievers when it comes to being lazy. Because why take off your own socks if your dog can do it for you?
    How to teach this:Teach the dog to pull
    Use the “pick up” command from before and when the dog is holding the sock, pull a little bit and reward if it holds on to it. Slowly build this up and especially reward if the dog pulls back. This will be fairly easy for most dogs since most dogs love a game tug-o-war. Now put it on cue.

    Put the sock on your foot halfway and use your “pull” cue
    Some dogs find this step a little confusing since it is fairly unusual ,so make sure to reward a lot.

    Complete the behavior and put in on cue
    Again, make sure to reward small steps and keep the dog motivated.


  • “Steal Money!”Please note that I taught my dog to do this for a film!How to teach this:
    For legal reasons, no instructions included 😉



A serious background:

For us, these are fun tricks that will maybe be useful at some point but never necessary. For thousands of handicapped people, that is different. They are often dependant on other people to help them to get through life which can really limit their quality of life. Service dogs support handicapped people and can give them back their independence. Unfortunately they are very expensive and often unaffordable.

Please consider donating to the European Service Dog Organisation:


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