Fun with a Box

As a long time dog trainer, this has to be one of my favorite games and homework to give to my new clicker training clients.  I learned this game from Karen Pryor at a dog training seminar many years ago.  People have misconceptions about dog training and often it is easier for them (or so they think) to physically manipulate their dogs into complying.  It is hard to get an impatient person to wait for their dog to sit or lay down without giving a command, putting their hands on their dog, or even luring their dog into the position.

However, most people will not grab their dogs and throw them into the box (thankfully).  And, this task is especially good for nervous or shy dogs that would not regularly explore unknown things in their environment.

Take a large cardboard box (this is a great time of year where most people have boxes laying around) and cut the sides down if you have a smaller dog. Put the box on the floor and get your treats and clicker ready.

Treat from your hand, when I was looking through other videos on the internet people were throwing the treats at their dogs.  Stay close to your dog and hand him a treat for a correct response.

It Might Not Look Quite Like This at First!

  • Click and treat every time your dog looks at the box, steps towards it or even in it.
  • Click and treat even if he didn't "mean" to touch the box.
  • If he is cautious be patient and get excited about the box, don’t worry about over treating.
  • If he is not looking at or moving toward the box simply shift your position or walk around the box yourself.
  • Once your dog is familiar with the game and realizes it has something to do with the new box, click and treat every time he even touches the box.
  • Reward him for stepping in or on, chewing on, or pushing the box with paws or nose.
  • Next only reward a new behavior associated with the box.

Begin shaping a behavior depending on what your dog has been doing with the box i.e. if your dog is chewing on the box, will he pick it up?  If he is pushing it with his nose, will he push with his feet?

Now that he understands the game you can come up with some criteria; do you want him to sit, or lay down in it?  Would you like him to tip it over on top of himself?  Do you want him to carry it over to you? Or do you want him to do the hokey pokey with it; put his right paw in, take his right paw out…  The sky is the limit, but depends on the behaviors he is willing to show you.

When he gets close to the behavior you are aiming for give him a Jackpot (several treats or a better treat).

End on a good note and have a good time!

Take the box out tomorrow and see what your dog has retained and if you can shape a new behavior!

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