Difficulty: Moderate Prerequisite: None Items Needed: Clicker, Treats
The clock says the time is eleven-thirty. It's dark out and you're tired, and the couple on the couch haven't stopped talking. They are your friends, or used to be—you're not so sure now. But the greyhound in the corner is your friend. "Come here boy," you whisper under the jabbering of the couple. He lays down by your legs and you look at him. You stare into his eyes and say, "Are you tired?" He smacks his lips and yawns, his great teeth revealing themselves, then disappearing again. "Yes, I know you're tired," you say and pat his head, "I am too." Your friends get the message.
Step 1: Most dogs will yawn when they are anxious. You can use that to help you catch the yawn. Look for your dog to yawn when he wants to go outside or wants a ball or toy that you are holding. When he yawns, click and treat. Because this trick has to be 'caught' with the clicker, it can be fairly difficult, and you have to time your clicks just right. Step 2: When he starts to offer a yawn because he has been treated for it, go ahead and give the command you want to associate with his action. It could be yawn, tired, or sleepy, but in any case, be consistent with your command. Repeat three to four times per session. Step 3: After several sessions of training your dog to yawn, give him the command and see if he will respond with a yawn.
Because we have to catch Caspian in the act of yawning, it can be frustrating when trying to get him to yawn multiple times in a training session. Caspian will lick his muzzle and yawn if he is anxious, so sometimes during our training session, we would turn around and not say anything for a few seconds. Caspian, not knowing what to do, would then get a little anxious. An assistant would either click or let the trainer know when to click if he yawned (you won't be able to see your dog if your back is turned). This trick was more frustrating for Caspian in general. He knew that he was being clicked and treated for something that had to do with his mouth, but didn't quite understand at first. If your dog gets frustrated during a training session, cut back on the amount of time for each session, but always try to end on a high note.
My dog doesn't understand that he's being clicked for yawning. How can I fix this problem? Since a yawn is a natural response that a dog might give for either being tired or anxious, he usually doesn't even notice when he's doing it. Making him aware that he is yawning is the key to this trick. It may take several training sessions, but eventually your dog will get it!
Tip: "This trick presents better if you use a cute command like "Are you sleepy?" or "It's bedtime."