Saturday, April 16, 2011

Teaching 'go to bed'

To set this up right you'll need a dog bed or blanket - to make it easier on the dog, make sure that the blanket is big enough for the dog to fit fully on, a raised edge will help too - and small, tasty treats.

Start kneeling or sitting on the floor next to the bed. Lure the dog onto the bed and into a down, if you can do this without cuing the down it will be easier to transition to the new cue. Do a few of these repetitions until the dog is doing this step with ease. Now take the food out of your hand, while keeping the same hand signal, get the dog onto the bed. If you hold your hand the same way you did when you had the treat in your hand the dog should follow with no problem. Mark and reward. Release the dog and do it again. This is a good place to stop for a break, make sure that you pick up the dog bed.

After giving your dog a brain break, come back and start where you left off. Do a few repetitions with no food in your hand, sitting or kneeling next to the dog bed. If your dog is doing this without any problems, stand up and do it. Same hand signal, no verbal cue, mark and reward for the dog going to the bed and laying down. From here we start taking steps back away from the bed. If your dog is falling short of the bed, then you've added too much distance too quickly. Remember that everything is still off cue.

When you can send your dog to the bed from five to six steps away you can add the cue to it. Tell your dog "go to bed" then give the hand signal. Mark and reward for the dog running over to the bed and laying down. Do a few of these repetitions and then give your dog a break, don't forget to pick up the bed!

The next time you're ready to start playing, do a few warm up reps without the verbal cue and just the hand signal, then put the cue back on it. You're now ready to do some light proofing. When your dog is on the bed, try to lure him off of it. If he follows, tell him "oops" or "uh-oh", get him on the bed and try to lure him off again. If he doesn't follow, mark and reward. We are building duration on the bed as well and building a stronger behavior. The way the dog wins the game is by staying on the bed. Another way to proof is to drop a cookie out of reach of the dog, mark and reward for not getting up to get it. If he does try to get it, pick up the cookie and get him back on the bed.

Build duration slowly and only practice when you can keep an eye on the dog. We do not want the dog learning that when we turn our back he can get up. Always remember to release the dog when you are done working. You won't always have to pick up the bed. When you are in the proofing stage you can leave the bed down all the time. Only reinforce the dog on the bed when you have cued him to go on it, there by reinforcing the cued behavior.

You can branch out and teach this behavior on a small rug that you can take with you. This is a great way to get a dog to settle and hang out in new places, outdoor cafes, and even classes!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Leave It - Part 1

This is a cue that comes in handy when you come across that gross dead thing on the street that your dog thinks is so very tasty. This cue is only as strong as you make it with practice and patience. This is a choice for the dog, if you make your dog do it the cue becomes weaker, but you will find that your dog will want the object more. Let’s turn the tables and set the dog up for success from the very start.
To begin you will need a stock pile of good treats, made into small pea sized bits, a bland cookie, milk bones do best, and your verbal marker or clicker. Sit on the floor with your dog or in a chair if you’re opposed to getting onto the floor and place the bland cookie in your closed fist. Present it to the dog and wait. Yes, that’s right wait. Wait for the dog to back off from the fist. Do not pull your hand away, scold the dog, or bop him on the nose. It’s a choice remember. As soon as your dog backs off of your hand, mark it with your verbal marker or clicker and treat with the other hand. Begin the sequence again by presenting the bland treat in the closed fist again. Mark and reward (m/r) when the dog backs off. What about the cue? When do we add the cue? You will add the cue when your dog is doing the behavior - in this case backing off the treat - quickly. Add your cue word - we’ll use Leave It - as you present your closed fist to the dog. When the dog backs off mark and reward. Do a few more repetitions and take a break.
Begin your next session with a review. Present the bland treat in the closed fist, mark and reward when your dog backs off. Now it’s time to raise the bar. Present the treat, but this time with your fist open. When the dog goes to grab the cookie close your fist. As soon as the dog backs off reopen, close if he goes for it again, reopen when he backs off and so on. The dog will finally give in and back off from the open hand because there is no way he’s going to get the cookie, this is when you mark and reward. Remember to only say your Leave It cue once when you first present your hand, the rest is a waiting game. Don’t forget it has to be the dog’s choice, so be patient.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shake, High-Five, Wave

AKA: Paw, How do you do?

Goal: Have the dog give you his front paw

Some dogs are naturally "handsy" and will paw at you when frustrated, this works to our favor when teaching the dog how to offer his paw on cue. Place a high value treat into the palm of you hand, then close your fist and offer it to your dog. It helps if the dog is in a sit, but it's not required. When you dog gets frustrated enough he will paw at your hand. The moment that he hits your hand, click and open your hand to give him the treat. Do this a few more times until he has the routine. Now cue 'shake' then present your hand, click, open and reward. Do this a few more times and then remove the treat from you hand, rewarding with the other hand or going into you pocket to get the treat with the hand he just hit. By saying the cue first, then presenting your hand, you will be able to transfer to a flat hand sooner.

Goal: Have the dog hit your hand with his paw up high

Once you have 'shake' on cue simply switch your hand to the high-five position and using the new cue, old cue technique, ask your dog to 'high-five' followed by 'shake'. Do this for a few repetitions, then just ask for a high-five without the shake cue and see if he does it. If he does then you don't need to continue to pair the cues together.

Goal: Have your dog wave his paw at you

Wave is a 'high-five' with your hand out of reach. Again here we are going to use the new cue, old cue technique. With your hand slightly out of reach cue your dog to 'wave' followed quickly by 'high-five'. Don't be surprised if your dog tries to stretch to meet your hand. If your dog jumps up to meet your hand, then your hand is too high or if he gives up after a few attempts, move your hand closer to make it easier. You may slowly increase the height and distance away from the dog when you no longer need to cue 'high-five' when asking for 'wave'. If you want your dog to be able to do wave on a verbal only add a beat pause between the verbal and the hand signal.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Goal: Get the dog to stand between your legs and remain there. The next step to this is moving forward and backward while the dog maintains position.

Stand with your legs shoulder width apart and with a treat lure your dog's head behind your leg and through. Try using two hands, use one to lure the dog behind you and the other to get him through your legs. When his head is between your legs, hold your hands at your stomach, making sure to reinforce periodically.

To add movement keep your hands at your stomach and take one step forward or backward. Praise and treat the dog for staying between your legs. If he comes out before being released mark with an 'oops!' or 'uh-oh' and lure him back.

You can add changes in position to make if harder still.

Spin and Twirl

Goal: Get your dog to make a full circle to the right and the left

Like many tricks the dog starts in front of you. With a treat lure the dog's head toward his tail. Be ready to break it down if he bails off the lure. Keep luring until the dog makes a complete circle either to the left or the right. Now try it to the other side.

Each dog has a hard side and an easy side. Put a different name to a turn to the left and a turn to the right to be clear to the dog. You can starting putting a name on it when the dog is consistently doing the turns each way.


Goal: Get you do to jump up onto an object and stay until released

This one is easy as long as you start with objects that are big enough for the dog and low enough to easily get on. When you have found an object that meets this criteria encourage your dog to jump up onto it. Reward the dog, step back a step or two, then return and reward. If your dog jumps down with out being released, simply get him back onto it. This is the only correction the dog will receive. When the dog realizes that you will keep putting him back up there and will only be rewarded for staying there, he will try to jump off less and less.

You can slowly increase the height of the object that you ask your dog to jump on and decrease the size of the landing zone. This is a huge trust behavior and requires a lot of confidence in the dog. Get creative with the objects you ask your dog to jump up on! They make great photo opportunities.

Balance the Bone

Goal: To balance a bone at the end of your dog's nose.

You'll need an evenly balanced treat for this trick. Start with your first two fingers under the dog's collar right under his chin, your thumb and last two fingers on either side of his muzzle. Lightly hold his muzzle still. If your dog fights this position, pause here and feed him until he's comfortable with you holding him like this.

Once your dog in comfortable in this position you may begin to place the bone on his nose. Only ask him to hold it for a short time before releasing your grip on his muzzle so he can get the treat. As your dog begins to understand that holding still is what you want you may slowly release your grip on his muzzle and still have him stay with the bone on his snout.

When you tell him to get the bone use his release word or 'get it'. You may tell your dog to 'stay' while holding the bone. Keep building time and if you want to be a super rockstar you can add the number of bones your dog holds on his nose.