Trick Training: Hold an Object
A rainy day with three active dogs in the house calls for some tricks training! Today we worked on holding an object with their paws. The finished behavior is the dog gripping an item with one of their front paws. This trick allows you to take fun photos like the one below. Keeper, Nova, and Sonny are all at varying levels of learning this trick. Keep reading for a trick training tutorial!
Keeper has the least amount of training with this trick. I am rewarding him for any paw interaction with the object - a broomstick or something similar works well for this stage. I reward him regardless of which front paw he uses. Eventually, I'll want him to pick a paw that he is most comfortable with (I'll know when he offers to use that paw the majority of the time).
In our next few sessions, I'll start watching for something closer to 'paw wrapping' and jackpot that behavior. You can also manipulate the way you are holding the object to encourage paw wrapping. Notice I am holding the item close to Keeper's body versus out in front of him - this encourages more of a wrapping/gripping behavior instead of a reaching behavior.
Nova has the 'paw wrap' down and now we are starting to add a little duration to the hold. Once the dog is actually wrapping his paw around the object, you'll want to switch to something wider which will be easier to hold for longer periods of time. Nova used her favorite #2 stuffed pencil! I am trying my best to mark the behavior before she starts to release her grip (I want to make sure I am rewarding the tight hold, not the letting go).
Sonny has had the most training with this trick. He can hold items with several seconds of duration and is starting to generalize the behavior to other objects. Make sure to add duration very gradually, start with a split second and slowly build up to a couple seconds and so on.
Once your dog understands this behavior with one item, you can start to generalize to new objects. These are items Sonny has never held before.