LOS ANGELES — If it seems like your dog knows every trick in the book, try changing books.
Babette Haggerty, veteran dog trainer to the stars, has packed 106 teach-them-yourself stunts into her new book, “The Best Dog Tricks on the Planet.” Pets that master the basic sit, stay and heel commands can learn to help around the house and even appear to read, pirouette or do the “Hokey Pokey,” she says, picking up party tricks to dazzle guests or special talents for TV and movie work.
Teaching canines of the rich and famous is a trait she picked up from her legendary father.
Haggerty, 45, of Oakland, N.J., figures she has trained 1,000 dogs over the years, many at her school, Babette Haggerty’s School for Dogs. She’s got a ways to go to catch dad Arthur “Captain” Haggerty, who died in 2006 at age 74. He trained an estimated 100,000 dogs.
The elder Haggerty handled dogs or appeared as an extra in more than 150 films and about 450 commercials. He also pioneered “Stupid Pet Tricks” on David Letterman’s late-night show and appeared on it 26 times.
Her dad’s best advice: “The dogs come first. Do whatever is best for the dogs,” she said.
Her father always encouraged her creativity. So, she didn’t just teach Jimmy Buffett’s Maltese to dance, but taught him to dance to “Margaritaville.”
She didn’t just teach Jack Nicklaus’ golden retriever to bark on command, but taught it to bark six times when you asked, “Cali, how many times has daddy won the Masters?”
In the book, each trick comes with photos, a hand signal, the tools needed (clicker, praise or treats), the average time it takes to learn it, difficulty (beginner, intermediate and advanced), advice from the expert and problem solving.
A lot of the tricks take time and repetition, from “dig on command” (beginner) to “get your leash” (intermediate) to “climb a ladder” (advanced).
Some dogs are not as eager to please as others, and Haggerty said she has to get around that. “But I have met owners who were harder to train than the most difficult dogs.”