Trainer says any dog can learn new tricks

New book provides step-by-step tips for variety of behaviors

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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. His 1977 book "Dog Tricks" is still selling well, and many credit him with turning dog training into an honorable profession.

Her dad's best advice: "The dogs come first. Do whatever is best for the dogs," she said.

Haggerty, who dedicated her book to her father, worked with him on the soap operas "Guiding Light" and "All My Children."

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?"

Help around the home

The book might come in handy for pet owners who need an extra paw around the house. Your dog can learn to fetch your keys, its food dish, a newspaper or the mail, she said. It can hold the dust pan, sort laundry or serve as your wake-up call. Or maybe you prefer the more difficult tricks: playing a toy-size piano, pushing a skateboard or hitting a baseball off a small tee.

One satisfied customer is Candice Ball of New York City. She was tired of wasting money on training classes that didn't work for her or her 6-year-old shih tzu, Toshi.

"I failed the classes," she said. "He wasn't treat-motivated. We sat and stared at each other. Then someone recommended Babette."

There were no treats — just praise — and it was effortless, Ball said. A well-trained Toshi has since appeared on "Law and Order: SVU," the final episode of "30 Rock" and in a New York Yankees commercial for MasterCard. He can also be seen appearing to read on page 154 of Haggerty's book, released in October by Page Street Publishing and co-authored by Barbara Call.

What Haggerty promised in her book is true, Ball said. She and Toshi are having lots more fun now that they are doing so much together.

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.