How to Train Your Dog to Perform a Beg Trick
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Teaching your dog to “beg” or “sit pretty” is a relatively simple trick you can teach your dog for fun. The begging trick is different from your dog's natural begging behavior at a table for “people” food, as it is an on-demand, trained behavior. Not only is this trick cute, but it strengthens your dog's core muscles, improves balance, and provides a good stretch for back muscles, all of which can help prevent injuries in other activities such as agility, play or sporting activities. To sit pretty or beg, your dog balances on his hind legs with his upper body upright and front legs curled in front of him. If your dog has an orthopedic condition, or has a long body like a dachshund or corgi, check with your veterinarian whether this trick is appropriate for them to learn, and will not further aggravate their condition or put stress on joints, bones, and muscles. If your dog is physically cleared to perform this trick, it can be lots of fun and entertainment for you and your friends when they see what a clever dog you have!
Most dogs do not have the muscles to perform this trick at first without support, so you may need to physically support your dog as he learns this trick until he develops the balance and strength to perform it on his own. Developing muscles to perform the task independently may take several weeks. Before learning tricks like ‘beg’, your dog should know basic obedience commands, especially sit, which is the first stage of the beg trick. Most dogs pick the beg trick up pretty quickly, within a few days, as it is an extension of the sit command, and their natural food seeking and curiosity behavior. This trick can be taught to older puppies if they have developed the patience and physical strength to perform the trick. If your young dog does not know basic sit command, or is not ready to wait for a treat, you may need to delay teaching this trick until they are a bit more mature.
You will need treats to teach your dog to beg. Your dog should know their basic obedience commands, especially ‘sit’, and have enough patience to attend to your commands and wait for a reward. Make sure that your dog does not have any medical conditions or injuries that would prevent him being able to balance or hold the beg position, or that would aggravate an existing condition. Choose a command such as “Beg” or “Sit Pretty” and be consistent with that command. Several helpful methods for teaching this trick follow.
The Physical Support Method
Ask your dog to sit.
Hold a treat above your dog's nose, out of reach, and raise the treat slowly while giving the verbal command to beg.
Reward or retry
When your dog’s front feet come off the ground, and he reaches, give him the treat. If he jumps up, withhold the treat, re-position him to the sitting position, and try again.
Repeat the procedure once successful, only raise the treat higher and higher, until your dog is sitting on his haunches. You my need to provide an arm for him to rest on, until he builds enough core muscle strength to hold the position on his own. As he reaches the desired position of balancing on his haunches, and waiting for his treat, say “good” and provide the treat to reinforce the behavior.
Gradually remove your arm support, until the dog can perform the trick in response to the command and balance on his own.
The Behind Support Method
Ask your dog to sit.
Provide support and command
Stand behind your dog with his bottom resting against your feet and lower legs. Hold a treat above your dog's nose, out of reach, and raise the treat slowly while giving the verbal command for beg.
Reward or retry
When your dog’s front feet come off the ground, and he reaches, give him the treat. Provide support and prevent him from backing up to reach the treat by supporting him from behind. If your dog jumps up, withhold the treat, re-position him to the sitting position, and try again.
Repeat the procedure, only raise the treat higher and higher until your dog is sitting on his haunches. Give him support by allowing him to balance against your legs. As he reaches the desired position of balancing on his haunches and waiting for his treat, say “good” and provide the treat to reinforce the behavior.
Gradually remove your support by stepping back, first with one leg, then both, until the dog can perform the trick in response to the command and balance on his own.
The Independent Strengthening Method
Position your dog in the sit position
Introduce the command
Give the beg command.
Hold the treat above his nose and provide the treat when the dog reaches up for it.
Gradually raise the treat so the dog has to raise one foot off ground to reach treat, then higher so they have to raise two. Do this slowly over a period of several days, practicing several times a day for one or two attempts each session.
Keep raising the treat until the dog has to balance on their hind legs to reach the treat in response to the command. Because the balancing stage is reached slowly over several days or weeks, the dog gradually develops their own strength and balance without having to have support provided.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 09/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021