Dog Training Games
Dog Clicker Games: 101 Things to Do With a Box
Positive dog training and dog enrichment and games have come a long way over the years. I remember one of the first “games” or dog training lessons I was taught was Karen Pryor‘s 101 Things to Do With a Box.
This dog training game is a way to allow and encourage a dog to offer his own behaviors and reward the behaviors you like and ignore the behavior you are not going for. This type of dog training, or shaping, is great for encouraging a dog who is somewhat shut down to offer behaviors. In the beginning stages of the 101 Things to Do With a Box game, you want your dog to be almost always right! Anything he does that even remotely relates to the exercise gets clicked and treated (learn about clicker training here). Once the dog is easily offering random behaviors, then you can, if you choose, switch to basic shaping with a goal behavior.
In the beginning stages of the game, you may feel like your dog does not understand what he is doing to get the click, and you are probably right. But after a few sessions of the game, the light bulb will go off and your dog will learn it’s because he did x. Then, the training really begins!
Getting Started You can use any old cardboard box for this, or it doesn’t even have to be a box. You can play 101 Things to Do With Anything, but you should start with a random item. Maybe a pan, book or pillow.
- Grab a handful of high-value dog treats and place them in your pocket.
- Your dog can be on leash, or off, if he’ll stay and keep working with you.
- Place your object on the floor and be ready. You will be clicking anything your dog does related to the object– a look, a step, a sniff, a push—anything and everything.
- When you click your dog for a behavior, toss the reward in various places around the object. You can then click again if your dog steps on the object, or goes past the object, etc. You are looking to get as much object action as you can, but at the same time, teach your dog it’s the box that is causing the click. Therefore, on some of your treat tosses, toss the treat away from the box, allowing your dog to make a choice to interact, look, or move toward the box.
- End the game with a nice jackpot of treats and fuss. Pick up the object and put it away until your next game.
There will be a moment when your dog “gets it” and starts to eagerly interact with the object. This is when you can start to choose what you want to reward. For example, you have been clicking and treating everything. Now, only click and treat when your dog puts his foot on the object. This is now your new goal. You are only clicking and rewarding your dog when his foot touches the object—all other offerings are ignored. Once your dog catches on to this new game, and has quite a few rewarding sessions, change your goal again, and only click and treat when both feet are on the object. This is how you can train a specific behavior. How fun is this?!
In the end, your dog is learning to learn and build confidence in learning. 101 Things to Do With a Box is an amazing game for a rescued dog, fearful dog, kids and dogs, puppies or people learning how to train dogs. The skill for the dog trainer is learning timing and how to reward a dog quickly and how to read a dog. It’s a great training game. So, grab a box, your dog clicker, healthy dog treats, and your pooch, and give it a shot.
Have you ever played 101 Things To Do With A Box? Tell me in the comments.
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