A dog trained using positive methods is an active participant in the game of training. Teaching your dog to be creative and offer new behavior is a skill you should introduce early. It will encourage mental and physical flexibility and give your dog the courage to try something on his own. It will also sharpen your observation skills and help you think creatively about training.
After learning hand targeting and eye contact, your dog will have grasped the idea of trying something new if the something old didn't earn a reward. This is a good time to offer a box or some other novel object and play the “101 Things to Do with a Box” game.
How to Play
In this game, a clicker is preferred because it's fast, sharp and distinct sound for marking precise behaviors. Have a seat with your clicker and treats ready, then present your dog with a novel object like a box or a plastic cup (be creative!). Remember to remain silent and let the clicker do the talking.
Present the new object in front of your dog
Click the moment your dog looks at, moves toward, or touches the object
Toss the treat in or near the object
Click for additional, even subtle interactions with the object (including any movement toward, stepping on, pushing, pawing, nosing, smelling, picking up, etc.)
Keep sessions short (under 2 minutes) and take play breaks in between
Once your dog understands that the game involves interacting with the object:
After each click and treat wait for your dog to come up with a new behavior to earn a click (one that hasn’t been clicked so far in the session).
Select a behavior to build on
In one short session, your dog may come up with a variety of different behaviors! Think about a behavior you may wish to build on to create a skill or trick. In your next session, begin clicking only for small behaviors that will build toward the skill you've selected.
Below, Timber has learned to lay down in the box. In early sessions I clicked for nosing, pawing, and placing a foot in it. Once I decided I wanted her to lay down in it, I selectively clicked her for getting in the box with front feet, then back feet, then for lowering her elbows until she was down. This was fun for her, but also helped her get over her quirky fear of strange things touching her body (she did not like this box at first).
Need help teaching foundation skills to your dog or puppy? Contact me, I'm here to help.