Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How To Survive Cabin Fever with the Dog - Part 3

How to Survive Cabin Fever with a Dog - Part 3

Indoor activities can be just as challenging and tiring for your dog. In the final part of our "How to Survive Cabin Fever with a Dog" series, we will explore how to teach your dog to do tricks. The methods prescribed here are the same methods that are used with zoo and marine animals.

As we reward our dogs for responding to our commands, we're essentially shaping his behaviour. But let's not kid ourselves; shaping is a two-way street. Just as we shape our dog's behaviour, they shape ours. Our dogs figure out patterns that get our attention when they want it.

But this blog isn't about who shapes whom. It's about how to train your dog to do tricks. 

What you'll need:
  • a box (you will be asking your dog to push it with his nose, pick a size that will work for your dog's size
  • a ball any size will do (for advanced tricks)
  • a hungry dog (just before feeding time is a great time to shape)
  • small treats

Phase 1: Getting Your Dog to Offer Behaviours

  1. Prepare yourself ... don't put the box down until you're ready to reward any interaction.  Have rewards ready in your hand.
  2. Set yourself up for success by doing this in a quiet area without a lot of distractions.
  3. Sit on the ground and put the box down in front of you.
  4. Reward your dog for any interaction with the box. If he smells the box, reward. If he hits the box with his paw, reward. As long as he is working, thinking or moving in relation to the box, reward.
  5. After about 10 treats, pick up the box and put it away.
  6. You can return to this activity as often as you like; don't exceed 10 treats at a time. Give your dog some rest in between shaping sessions. After you get your dog to consistently interact with the box, you're ready to move onto phase 2. 

Phase 2: Working Towards Something

  1. Decide on a trick. Start simple. For illustration purposes, we'll be asking the dog to push a box with his nose.
  2. Close the box so your dog is more likely to concentrate on the outside of the box.
  3. Because of his experience with the previous phase, he will expect to be reward for any interaction with the box. However, since your goal is to get him to push the box with his nose, only reward him if he interacts with the box with his nose.
  4. After a few rewards for any nose interaction, only reward nose interaction on the side of the box.  To make this more likely to happen when you present the reward put it on the side of the box you would like your dog to touch.
  5. When the nose interaction moves box, give him a handful of treats. Once you reach this point, the only time you reward  is for a moving box.

Phase 3 : Increasing Difficulty

  1. Repeat phases 1 and 2 with a ball instead of a box.
  2. Decide where you want your dog to push the ball (for example, through a doorway).
  3. Only reward when your dog moves the ball in the direction of the goal.

That's it! Teach him to take the ball to different spots. Try giving him a cue. You can even wait longer before  you reward him for moving the ball. Eventually your dog will push the ball around without expecting a treat from you because the ball game has become self rewarding.  Check out a video of Oakley learning how to move a box around.

Hope this series has given you some great ideas to keep your dog fit and exercised through the winter. If you missed the first two parts, here they are:

What kind of tricks are you going to get your dog to do? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy shaping!