You will need a snack pack of treats and a yogurt lid for this exercise. Count out 10 treats beforehand so you can keep track of your success. Be sure to keep your training sessions short and fun to keep your dog interested in the game of training. If at any time your dog seems to be struggling just go back to the previous step.
- Nose-Touch a target: stand in front of your dog with a yogurt lid in your hand; have the circle of the lid facing your dog. Present the lid right in front of your dog’s nose, close but not quite touching. As your dog reaches out to sniff say, “yes” in a very cheerful voice and give a yummy treat from your snack pack. Repeat this 10 times.
- Repeat step 1 but add some distance between you and your dog. That means your dog will have to move to touch the target to earn their reward since it won’t be right in front of them. You might need to be enthusiastic in this step to encourage them to come to the target. Once your dog can take several steps or jump up to touch the target, you can move on to step 3.
- Next, tape the yogurt lid to the door and wait for your dog to target the lid as in previous steps. Repeat this 10 times and as long as at least 8 out of 10 times she is successful at targeting the door, you can carry on building distance from the door and increase the force of the target.
- Now that your dog is successfully targeting the yogurt lid, remove the lid from the door and reinforce any attempts to target without the lid present. Repeat this step until your dog can target the door without the lid.
- Add a verbal cue: Once your dog is voluntarily offering a behavior consistently, you can add a verbal cue to signal to the dog when to perform the behavior. Choose a verbal cue that is easily perceived by your dog and easy for you to remember. Since in this game we are teaching your dog to close the door, I have chosen the cue, “close.” Since your dog is already targeting the door, you can wait for a pause in action, say the cue, “close” and then reinforce the successful trick. Repeat this 10 times.
- The last step will involve asking more of your dog for them to earn their reward. Cue several targets and let them know they have done a great job with happy praise but save that yummy treat for when they have closed the door or at least made the door contact the frame. Play this fun game often and soon they will close the door with enthusiasm.
What a great help when you are carrying in bags of groceries! Keep it positive and keep it fun!
by Niki Perry, CPDT-KA, KPACTP, CEMT, Release the Hounds Board Member
Niki’s website: The Beloved Beast