Here is the text for "'Push' an Animal" for the Handle Animal skill:

To push an animal means to get it to perform a task or trick that it doesn’t know but is physically capable of performing. This category also covers making an animal perform a forced march or forcing it to hustle for more than 1 hour between sleep cycles. If the animal is wounded or has taken any nonlethal damage or ability score damage, the DC increases by 2. If your check succeeds, the animal performs the task or trick on its next action.

If the action of the trick takes longer than its next action, what happens?

For example, skills like "Bury", "Heel", "Sneak", etc. could all take longer than one round. Bury is the most obvious. It includes the animal finding a hidden spot and then burying an item. This implies multiple minutes of actions, not just one action. But, I cannot see a situation where you would want an animal to heel for six seconds and then stop or sneak for six seconds and then start making lots of noise.

For "Attack", we know from the "Down" trick that:

An animal that doesn’t know this trick continues to fight until it must flee (due to injury, a fear effect, or the like) or its opponent is defeated.

So, pushing an animal to attack clearly allows it to continue longer than one round. Does the absence of similar text imply that the other tricks I mentioned are performed for a single action, and then the next round, the animal must be pushed again to do the same trick?


1 Answer 1


So, first of all, this text is copied verbatim from the D&D 3.5e open-game content that Pathfinder is based on. None of these words are Paizo’s.

That’s important because of the use of “on its action,” which is a thing that Wizards of the Coast said sometimes early on in 3.5e’s lifecycle. It means “on its turn,” which is confusing as anything and that’s why they stopped using it, but nonetheless it persists in some of the earliest material—which is also most of the material that got made into open-game content. Personally, I would have liked to see Paizo find all these cases and change them to “turn” when they wrote up Pathfinder, but I guess they didn’t do that (I have no idea if they tried and just missed this one, or decided not to do that, or didn’t even think to do that).

So that, I think, clarifies your question at least a little—we are not talking about a single action here. I mean, doing things as “an action” isn’t even a thing in Pathfinder, the action types are full-round, standard, move, swift, immediate, and free (and non-, I guess).

But are we talking about a single turn?

Again, I would say no—because that wouldn’t allow the creature to “perform the trick” as push says it does. Rather, the “on its [turn]” bit just means that it doesn’t act on your turn, when you pushed it. If it can only start the trick on that turn, that’s what it does—and then it continues to do so. If it didn’t continue to do so, then push isn’t doing the thing that push says it does, because it says the trick gets performed—that is, completed. Just picking something up and then running around a little does not perform “bury.” Plus we have—as you noted—many examples of multi-turn tricks, and they’re not called out as special or exceptional—that’s just how tricks are.

So push gets an animal to complete the thing they were pushed to do, at least until you order them to do otherwise or something about the scenario invalidates the push.

By the way, if that feels too much like reading between the lines to you, I should point out that taken unnecessarily literally, “performs the trick on its next action” would mean that the next action the creature uses—even if it’s a free action—completes the trick in its entirety, even if it should take a lot more effort than that. At that point, a command like “attack” would arguably involve the creature attacking until the target, or all targets, were dead, in one action. This is all clearly absurd, and pushes us to consider the context a little more—as I have done above.


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