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Summon nature's ally spell mentions:

This spell summons a natural creature. It appears where you designate and acts immediately, on your turn. It attacks your opponents to the best of its ability. If you can communicate with the creature, you can direct it not to attack, to attack particular enemies, or to perform other actions.

A summoned monster cannot summon or otherwise conjure another creature, nor can it use any teleportation or planar travel abilities. Creatures cannot be summoned into an environment that cannot support them. For instance, a porpoise may only be summoned in an aquatic environment. The spell conjures one of the creatures

from the 1st-level list on the accompanying Summon Nature’s Ally table. You choose which kind of creature to summon, and you can change that choice each time you cast the spell. All the creatures on the table are neutral unless otherwise noted.

I am guessing since the purpose of this spell is for summon to fight, we don't need to roll a "handle animal" check to get them to attack a target. What happens if you want them to do something else other than attack such as guard or interact with an object? Is this possible for a summon to do?

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    \$\begingroup\$ (You may want to specify that an animal (or magical beast) is being summoned with the summon nature's ally spell; try to Handle Animal a satyr, and they're liable to thwack you with their panpipes. :-) ) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2023 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added that to title. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2023 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that I've seen plenty of DMs let players run their summoned monsters, though this is not accurate as it gives the player more control than they should have to instantly set up things like flanking/attack the right target without communication/etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Jan 31, 2023 at 5:55

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When you cast summon nature’s ally to summon anything,

It attacks your opponents to the best of its ability.

If you want it do anything other than that, you need some way to communicate with it. For creatures with language, that requires communication in a shared language. For animals, that requires Handle Animal. (Or speak with animals—if you have the ability to just talk to them, you don’t need to “handle” them. Handle Animal is for getting an Int 1-2 creature, that doesn’t have a language, to do something.)

But if all you want the summoned animal to do is attack your enemies, you don’t need to handle it—it will do that automatically as a part of the magic of the spell.

(How the summoned animal recognizes your enemies—and to what extent it can thwart attempts to pretend not to be an enemy—is unclear and will have to be handled by DM ruling. Creatures you are obviously hostile toward and/or are obviously hostile towards you should always be fair game, though.)

As for what you can tell a summoned animal to do if you do want to change its behavior from that default, this would generally come under the heading of “pushing” an animal with Handle Animal. Pushing is always DC 25, no matter what the trick is, and generally takes a full-round action (exceptions are for things like a druid pushing their animal companion, and wouldn’t apply to regular animals summoned by summon nature’s ally).

You aren’t necessarily limited to the tricks published in the book—anything the animal is physically capable of should be fair game—but for the record, the Player’s Handbook lists Attack, Come, Defend, Down, Fetch, Guard, Heel, Perform (simple tricks like roll over), Seek, Stay, Track, and Work (push or pull something).

(There are a few additional tricks printed in other books, too. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is a trick from Drow of the Underdark that you can use to get a venomous animal to allow you to “milk” it to make a poison.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ An Aside: The list of animal tricks is actually unreasonably long, numbering about 30 with just the PH, DrU, Arms & Equipment Guide, and the Random Encounters Web column "Wild Life: Tricks and Training for D&D Animals." Animal tricks are scattered mess. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2023 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see. If the animal that needs to be pushed cannot communicate in druid's language, does that mean druid needs to cast "speak with animal" spell then do the push? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2023 at 21:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @UniQuadrion You can use the Handle Animal skill on pretty much anything with an Intelligence score of 1–2 (including, amusingly enough, feebleminded PCs). They don't have a language to know; success with the Handle Animal skill (like with "pushing") is communicating with such creatures—for people without spells, anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2023 at 21:43

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