Category Archives: 52 Weeks

52 Weeks – Week 4 – Pull open a door/drawer

Okay – we are finally back on track with Project 52 Weeks. Dan’s getting better at “hold it” all the time. We ended up using the words “take it” with a “stay” cue for now, because he already understood the “stay”. But later I am going to transition to “hold it” with the meaning of “take” and “stay”. I found that the type of object we practiced with really matters. Soft, small objects (like a tennis ball) are easier for him to hold for longer periods of time. So, we have started with those types of things and will continue to practice holding different textured, weighted, and shaped objects.

The next trick we will work on is “Pull” – this will be pulling on a rope or towel in order to open a drawer or door.

Here are the shaping steps:

  1. Take your rope/towel by itself first – don’t attach to a door yet.
  2. Hold it near your dog and click/treat for any interaction with the object.
  3. Hold it near your dog and click/treat for mouthing or biting the object.
  4. Hold it near your dog and when he bits it, tug slightly and then click/treat.
  5. Now let him be the one to tug on the object to earn a click/treat.
  6. Next attach the rope/towel to a door. Take your dog near the door and hang out. When he pulls a little, click/treat.
  7. Next wait for him to pull increasingly harder to earn a click/treat. Work up to enough strength in the pull to open the door. Drawers are likely to be more difficult, especially if they are full – We are going to start with doors and then try drawers.
  8. When he can open the door/drawer all the way, add the cue “pull” or “open”.

Don’t forget to share your photos on my facebook page!

Week 3 – Update

Hi All,

If you’re following along you are probably wondering where the week 3 recap is!  Last week I had a pretty bad cold/flu bug and we didn’t get much training time in.  So, Dan and I are repeating week three and still working on “hold it”.

Interestingly, this is turning out to be pretty difficult for Dan.  Getting any amount of duration for holding the item is tricky.  He wants to grab the item at the back of his mouth and toss it around or spit it out immediately.  It’s a little surprising to me because he carries his toys around all the time.  So, our shaping sessions are turning into “micro shaping” sessions.  I am working on clicking only when he grabs the object with the middle of his mouth and in a gently manner.  If he’s snatching it rapidly and sloppily he can’t hold it for very long.

We will keep working and have another update later this week.


“Hold it” – Week 3 Training Steps


Okay, in case you need a little help with training this one – here’s the shaping steps I am using.  Dan is pretty good at grabbing things when asked because we’ve practice that in the past so we are focusing on the last few steps involving the build up of duration.

Target Behavior: When I hold an item out and say “Hold it”, Dan will grab it with his mouth and hold on until released.

Shaping Steps:

  1. Choose one item to begin the training with. Ideally it will be something that is easy for your dog to hold in his mouth, perhaps even a toy that he is used to picking up.
  2. Hold the item out and if your dog moves towards it click/treat.
  3. Next wait for an open mouth reach towards the item before you click/treat OR a sniff, lick, nudge if you can’t get the open mouth right away. The idea is that he needs to interact with the item at least a little. (No more than 3-4 interactions that aren’t closely related to grabbing with his mouth.)
  4. You should easily be able to move from open-mouth reach to actually closing his mouth on the object. Click/treat for mouth closing.
  5. Now you’ve got the grabbing part! Next build duration. Wait to click until he has held onto the object for a second or two.
  6. Slowly build up duration a few seconds at a time until you reach your goal. As you build the duration, it can help to sometimes go back and do a shorter duration so that it isn’t too predictable for your dog.
  7. Now add the cue “Hold it. Begin by saying the cue when you present the object. Click/treat for a hold behavior (at least a few seconds)
  8. Finally – repeat with lots of different objects! Sometimes you might have to go all the way back to step one, but other times you might be able to jump right to step 7. It depends on your dog’s history with holding things and the type/texture of object (among many other variables).



Week 2 “Clean” – Toys in the Box and Next Trick

Okay, this week was much easier for us than last week.  The video below is our second training session.  The trick needs fine tuning, but he is starting to really get it.

Next Trick!

For week 3 we are going to work on “hold”.  The goal is for Dan to take and hold an object (a variety of objects will be used) until released.  I am hoping to work up to 30 seconds of duration on this one.  He can sort of  do this trick, but we have never formally worked on it and he only holds the object for a few seconds.

Also, I think I need to change my posting schedule.  It has been difficult to post on Sunday nights, so the final trick and the new goal will be posted on Mondays instead from now on.  An update and shaping plan will be posted on Thursdays.

Don’t forget to post a photo of your dog doing one of the tricks from 52 Weeks to be entered in the October raffle!


Week 2 – Toy to Box Training Plan

Okay, here is the training plan for teaching “put a toy in the box”.  I chose the word “clean” for my cue but you can, of course, choose a different word.

Goal: When cued to “clean” Dan will pick up a toy and put it in the box.

Shaping steps:

  1. Position box in front of you between you and your dog. Hold a toy over the box and ask your dog to take the toy. Once he grabs it, even a little, let go and wait for him to drop it. As soon as he lets go, click/treat.
    • Repeat until he is getting it right every time.
  2. Now place the toy next to the box. If he picks the toy up, click/treat
    • Repeat a few times to reinforce picking up the toy from the ground.
  3. Place the toy next to the box. Wait for your dog to pick up the toy and take a step or two toward the box. Click/treat for moving toward the box. To get the treat, your dog will need to let go of the toy J.
    • Repeat a few times to remind your dog that the box is important.
  4. Now, when you place the toy next to the box, wait for your dog to pick the toy up and drop it over the box. Click/treat for dropping it over the box.
    • For the first few repetitions, even if the toy doesn’t go in the box you should click/treat.
    • Then, require that the toy land in the box before your dog can earn a click/treat.
  5. Next add the cue.  As your dog picks up the toy and heads for the box say “clean” then click/treat for dropping it in the box.
  6. Once you have gotten this far, you can begin to place the toy further from the box or in random locations around the box.

Note: From step 3 on, if your dog makes a mistake, take the toy back and put it back in the same place on the floor. For example, if you are working on step 3 and your dog picks the toy up and drops it without moving, simply put the toy back in “start” position. This way, he won’t get in the habit of picking up the toy, dropping it near the box, then picking it up again and dropping it in the box. Instead it will he will learn the smoothly and deliberately pick up the toy and put it in the box on the first try.

“Crossed Paws” and Next Trick!

It turns out, we picked a tough trick for the first week, at least for Dan.

We are getting very close, but the behavior isn’t quite on cue yet. We will keep working and have it soon.

Here is a photo of Dan practicing with the paw target:

Dan Crossed Paws

I thought for the follow up this week, it would be fun to talk about what challenges we ran into when practicing this trick.  So, here we go.

The first thing we struggled with was the target – Dan’s nose touch behavior is much stronger than his paw touch behavior. So, we had to go back and review the “paw” behavior before we could begin with this trick.

The second challenge was that the place I had to hold the target in him to touch with his paw looked very similar to his cue for “bang”. This was another place where we had to go back and review – “bang” vs. “paw”

Third was getting Dan to lie down in an upright position. We have done TONS of practice on his “relaxed down” where he rolls his hip and tucks one paw. This has helped a lot in situations where he needs to calm down a bit, but in order to perform the “crossed paws” behavior easily, he needs to have his hips square and both front paws out straight. To practice this, I simply worked with him on our ottoman. It was narrow enough that he had to do an upright down rather than a relaxed down or he didn’t fit!

As you can see, Dan’s training history really determined where we had to start. What challenges did you face when teaching this trick?

Don’t forget to share a photo of your trick on my Facebook page for an entry in the October drawing!

Also, it is time to announce the trick for Week #2:

I have been coming up with some themes for tricks and the first one I want to work on is carrying, putting things in, and picking things up.

I am going to start with Putting a Toy in a Basket (Can you see where this one is going? Hopefully we can get to “Dan…pick up your toys!”)



Crossed Paws – Training Steps

Okay, here is the first training plan for 52 Weeks.  Crossed Paws!
Dan and I are at step 5 right now, hopefully will get through 6 and begin 7 today.

Goal: When cued to “cross” Dan will cross one paw over the other in a down position.

Shaping steps:

  1. Click/Treat any paw movement from a down position.
  2. Paw movement from one paw only; ignore movement from the other paw.
  3. Place a target just in front of the moving paw. Click/treat for touching the target with a paw (ignore touches from other paw or nose touches).
  4. Begin to move the target a little, just an inch or so toward the stationary paw. C/T for target touches.
  5. Put the target on top of or on the other side of the stationary paw (you may need to experiment to see how far you can move the target each time for your dog). Work up to placing the target on the other side of the stationary paw. C/T for target touches with the moving paw.
  6. Now your dog should be crossing his paws to touch the target! Begin to add a little duration. Count to 3 before you C/T.
  7. Take away the target and wait. You may have to go back to C/T for an approximation of the paw cross, but your dog should offer it (be patient!).
  8. When your dog is offering the paw cross on his own without the target and can hold the position for 3 seconds, you are ready to add the cue. (See Handout, “Adding a Cue to Any Behavior”)
  9. You did it! To make the behavior stronger, work on generalizing (location) and adding distractions
    1. Practice in 3 different locations.
    2. Practice with 3 different distractions.

Project 52 Weeks

As a professional dog trainer, there are times where I am so busy with clients’ dogs that training my own dog falls by the wayside. When I do work with Dan, we are often working on a long-term goal – an agility skill, working on calmness around other dogs and people, etc.

I have been thinking about ways to focus more on simple fun with Dan and also to teach him some skills, tasks, or behaviors that I haven’t taught before.

Sometimes I will get on a roll and teach Dan a new trick, but this really only happens a few times a year. When we do this, he learns it quickly – in a week or less! He is happier because he’s gotten some focused, fun attention and it’s easy to practice indoors in the winter when he might otherwise not get enough exercise.

Putting these thoughts all together, I have decided to start “Project 52 Weeks”. I am going to teach Dan one trick/skill/behavior/concept per week for the next year. And, I want you all to try it with me!

Here’s what I will do:

  1. Sunday evenings I will post the behavior of the week.
  2. Tuesday mornings, I will post the training guide/shaping steps
  3. Thursdays I will post Dan’s progress and the following Sunday when the new trick comes out, I will post a video of the last trick.

Here’s your part:

  1. Sunday evenings, look at the behavior of the week – try to come up with a training plan
  2. Practice it Monday/Tuesday
  3. Tuesday you can look at my training plan and compare it to yours. Modify yours as you like and keep practicing!
  4. Sunday, post a video of the final behavior (or the progress you’ve made) on my page. Everyone who posts a video will have his or her name entered into a monthly drawing to win a cool dog book, toy, or treat. The behavior doesn’t have to be perfect in order to post a video, just a start.
  5. If you aren’t able to do it every week, that’s okay – join us when you can!

The main event will take place on my Facebook page, but I will post a weekly update on the blog too so you can all follow along with what’s happening.

Sunday, September 27th will be the real start date with the first drawing taking place October 31st. We will get a head start on the first week with the trick: Cross Paws in a Down like this adorable Boxer.

Paws Crossed

Week 1: Paws Crossed

Hope you can join us in learning some fun new tricks with your pup!