Since it's been either too cold or too snowy for almost six weeks, I started doing more trick work with the the pack. We're working on pivots, marching, backing up straight, and today I started them on crossing their paws. For anyone interested in teaching some tricks, Kikopup on youtube does a fantastic job of demonstrating how to train many different tricks. Here is her video for a pivot, one of the foundation moves in freestyle. She uses it to train rear end awareness. I think it would also be useful in building rear end strength, stability and flexibility. It can also form the basis of a startline routine.
Shaping tricks has many fringe benefits. Shaping tricks teaches a dog how to learn and to really enjoy the process. The more they know, the easier it is to teach them something new. And although many people don't realize it, it's all tricks--be it obedience, house manners or agility. Teaching tricks helps build a stronger bond between you and your dog. They're having fun, getting exercise, interacting with you, and getting cookies (or a toy). Such a deal! The mental exercise is more demanding than the physical exercise involved in training most tricks so you don't have to train for long periods of time to give your dog an outlet for his energy. Teaching your dog tricks teaches him that working with you is fun. Lastly, you can select tricks that will reinforce behaviors you would like your dog to be able to perform better. For example, teaching your dog to back up straight teaches hind end awareness; is a strengthening exercise since it uses muscles in ways they are normally used; reinforces the concept of distance work if you have them back away from you and toss their reward to them.
I can work all four dogs on something new in about 15 minutes. I usually work each dog twice in that time. The three that aren't working are expected to lie quietly and just watch until it is their turn. It's like a twofer. I'm training them to do tricks, and I'm also training them to lie quietly.