some useful things a dog can be trained to do around the house?


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
Looking for more projects for my 7 month old yellow lab, and my husband is VERY VERY against "trick" training (not for any good reason, and I am mostly not listening to him about it anyhow
, but insofar as I can do *useful* things with Russell instead, that would probably be better)

I know that dogs are trained to do all sorts of useful things as assistance dogs for the elderly, handicapped, etc. But some of them are just not relevant to our life (e.g. alerting us to when the phone is ringing). Can y'all think of any tasks that a dog could perform that would have some genuine UTILITY around the house or yard? And that are fairly simple to train (i.e. not hugely complicated series of events)?

Thanks for all ideas,

Pat, I have some disability issues in that my spine is deformed. As I get older it's getting harder and harder for me to manage.
We've taught our older GSD Jax some things that are useful to me, even if some would consider them tricks.
Jax can - pick up things I drop, carry things from room to room for me and (probably) most importantly, he can pull me up when I fall. All I have to do is call him over - he's usually right there anyhow, grab hold of his collar and say UP! This has relieved my DH's mind, as he feels better about leaving me home alone with Jax here to help me out.
We taught Jax these things by simple repetition and lots of praise when he does them.
I have a book called teach an old dog new tricks or something like that. It shows how to teach a dog to.......pull open a drawer, turn on (or off) a light switch, push a door shut, go grab a kleenex off the table, etc etc.

Back when I had a smart dog (lol), I taught her to close the door (aka "nose" the door), and she had a wobbly grasp on turning off the light switch.

I would probably start with "nosing" things....then you can start teaching objects. Close the door, close the drawer......then go with "pulling" open. you need a pull rope on whatever you want him to open. Then you can start doing groups. Open drawer, then close drawer.

Closing the door is fun and easy......and useful. hands are full of groceries? CLOSE THE DOOR "doggie".
On a sidenote, I have no idea what all you have taught him already........I have 4 dogs now (ha) and am not big on lots of training anymore as I just don't have the time or need for most of it. However, both of my young and rambunctious dogs do not leave an open gate without sitting and waiting for the "okay". All dogs know how to sit. Both large dogs know how to lay down, stay and heel. Both big dogs know how to "go to their bed" and lay down there. Both big dogs know how to "leave it". All dogs have a release word "OKAY!".

I find that teaching my dogs to speak tends to make them want to bark all the time, so I no longer teach that, LOL.

I would like my dogs trained on how to pick something up for me. Haven't gotten around to it. Both "big dogs" know how to drop it on command too. Worked well for that poor dying bunny the other day, sigh, except for how the puppy got it afterwards.
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Our GSD, Rex learned very early how to go get the newspaper (it was a long drive way to the mail box) and to carry in groceries. He took both jobs very seriously. So seriously in fact, one Sunday morning when DH told him to go get the paper and he didn't go right away and DH walked down to get it, Rex went with him all the way and when they got the box Rex tried to get the paper but DH wouldn't let him and told him "no, you wouldn't go get it, I had to, so now you can't have it". Well, a little later that morning, imagine our surprise when we go to step outside and there's a big Sunday paper laying on the step. Little while later, there was another one. About another hour later, another paper showed up. All in all, four big Sunday papers found their way to our front door step. We had to call all our neighbors to find out who was missing a paper since Rex had gone around the neighborhood and stolen all the papers he could find.

We finally bought a farm and now Rex has all sorts of jobs to do and stays busy just guarding everything.
Our Border Collie knows two tricks that are really helpful around the house:

1) she can pick up messes! One of our Basset Hounds likes to go through the recycling bin and leave stuff all over the house. So I taught her a variant on fetch we call "Help Mommy pick up this mess!" she runs about fetching all the plastic. Works great and is a lot of fun. Makes her Border Collie brain work.

2) she can turn out light switches. Right now, she's better at Off than On. We'll be settling in to watch a video. head out for dinner or heading to bed, etc. and tell her "Time to go to bed!" and she'll run over, stand up and scrabble at the switch until it turns off.

But my favorite thing that she does trick-wise is give sideways hugs. If you put out your left arm and yell "Gracie hug!" she'll jump up with both front legs on your arm and snuggle in. We taught her the sideways hug because I have a bad knee and front-wise knocks me over!
If you can teach him to find people and animals on the property, that can be useful. Our dogs know the names of the people and animals in the household. It's really handy if you can say, "Where's _____?" and the dog will go to the individual, while you follow along. Sometimes my husband is out on the property somewhere and can't hear me call or I'm looking for a missing animal or chicken. I don't think they know all the names of the chickens, but they know the words for chicken, turkey, bunny, deer, squirrel, kitty, etc.

My dogs know a "Go with" command. That's for sending them with my husband or a vet tech. Otherwise, they stay with me. A variation of that is the "Go to _____" command, when I want them to go to my husband, when he's in another room or outside somewhere. Your dog could deliver a note or an item in a dog pack.

For a young dog, teaching them to fetch can really burn up the excess energy of adolescence.

Some people like to take up agility or flyball with their dogs, if you ever want to consider doing an activity with other people.

Mostly, my dogs just keep me company, run off varmints and look adorable. They also like to taste test food. I'm not sure that last job is useful to anyone but them.

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