Strengthening Tricks

While tricks are fun and adorable (how cute is a dog that can take a bow on cue?), did you know they can also be great stretches and muscle strengtheners for our athletic dogs?  Below are just a few examples of tricks that serve a dual purpose, and how to teach them.

Sit Pretty/Sit Up

  • How to teach:  From a sitting position, place a treat right above your pup’s nose.  Then, very slowly move it up, allowing your dog to lick at the treat as he extends his head and neck.  When his front feet come off the ground, praise her/him and give the treat.
  • What it does:  This is a great core strengthener, toning the abdominals and back muscles protecting the spine.

Back Up

  • How to teach:  Stand in front of your dog, and hold a treat at his nose level.  Move the treat slightly in toward his chest, as you step toward him.  This should cause him to take a step backward; when he does, praise and reward him.
  • What it does:  Great for those glutes!


  • How to teach:  Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose, and slowly move it back towards her hip, allowing her to lick at it as she follows.  Keep up this circular motion, until your dog spins a complete circle.  When she does, reward her!  Make sure to go both directions.
  • What it does:  This is a great side stretch, perfect for a warm up or cool down.

When teaching your dog a new trick, it’s okay to reward for attempts, or approximations of the goal.  This will prevent your dog from getting frustrated while learning something new.  Have fun, and try these during your next workout with your pup!

Recipe for fun and fitness: you, your dog, and Sit Stay Fit


Spot presents Jamie Lawrence and Jenna Kirby, owner/operators of Sit Stay Fit in Portland, who are now bringing great fitness tips for dogs and their people through blog posts at Spot.  

Jamie says, “We believe that exercise keeps those at both ends of the leash happy and healthy, and so strive to offer that in all of our services — be they fitness classes for dogs and people, training-focused dog walks, or canine runs, we use positive methods that are effective and fun.” 

“We offer a time-saving program that helps achieve dog owners’ personal fitness goals while simultaneously tiring out their dogs,” Jamie continues, “teaching them a few manners & tricks along the way.”   Stay tuned for more great tips, and learn more at

The time saver 20-minute workout for you & your pup

Want to get more out of your next walk? Try this routine while out and about to burn more calories and improve your dog’s training skill.  Make sure to grab some high-powered treats before you head out the door!

For 2 minutes each:

  • Walk at a normal pace, and say ‘yes!’ and treat every time your dog looks in your direction.  Be generous and reward even the half look backs you get from time to time as they’re learning to check in!
  • Sprint 10 steps, and abruptly stop and ask your dog to sit and reward him/her with a treat when they do.  Repeat.  Once your dog gets the hang of this, randomly reinforce with the treat.  Sometimes moving again can be just as rewarding!
  • Resume a normal pace, and allow your dog to sniff around and get distracted. When s/he does, excitedly call your dog’s name and “come,” and jog in the other direction.  When your dog catches up to you, reward her/him.  Repeat.
  • Repeat the sprint and sit games listed above, but this time, try it with a down. 
  • Alternate between jogging 20 high knees, and 20 butt kicks as you keep reinforcing all of the check-ins that your dog offers up.


  • Find a tree, rest your back against it with your feet about a foot in front of you.  Move down into a squat position, to do a tree sit (make sure your knees are over your ankles, and not your toes!).  Ask your dog to do a few of your favorite tricks, sit and down, or practice ‘watch me.’  Hold for 60 seconds.  
  • Do 10 walking lunges (5 on each side) while you work on keeping your dog next to you at this slower pace.  Use that lure if you need to, and stop moving if your dog hits the end of the leash.  Reward him/her occasionally for staying with you!
  • Then warm up your dog and practice their stay.  Reinforce them as often as needed in order for him/her be successful.  Can s/he stay while you do 20 calf raises?  10 jump squats?  30 jumping jacks?
  • Sprint back to the tree for one more time through the tree sit, lunges, and stay practice.      

Incorporating some of these tools will not only make walks more exciting for your dog, but they’ll improve his/her focus on you outdoors while you get your heart rate up.   It’s a win-win. Enjoy!