During my last Summer School Class with Odin, we played a fun game called “101 Things to do with a Box.” However, since Odin associated boxes with nose work, we needed a different object for him to play with that he had no previous association with. So, the name of the game changed to “101 Things to do with a Skateboard”, however any object can be used to play this game.
The game emphasizes the importance of shaping and how it can create effective communication between you and your dog. Shaping basically means using and reinforcing a series of small steps to teach your dog a new behavior. Shaping allows the dog to try new things and the clicker (or verbal marker) facilitates communication between the two of you. If you click, the dog knows it is doing something right and will continue to behave that way. By breaking the training into small achievable steps, the communication between you and you dog will become clearer which will speed up learning and reduce confusion between you and your dog.
How to Play the Game:
Step 1: Choose Your Object
- You can use a cardboard box, skateboard, or anything that you want your dog to interact with. For Odin, we started with a skateboard.
Step 2: Arm Yourself with Treats and Your Clicker
- Grab some treats and your clicker. Put the object on the floor and stand a few feet back and wait for your dog to interact with the object.
Step 3: Start Shaping Fun Behaviors
- Watch for any kind of behavior your dog does towards the object (no matter how small). If they move towards the object, click and treat. If they put a paw on, sniff, mouth, or move the object click and treat their behaviors. Right know you do not have a specific goal in mind, therefore you reward any interaction with the object. You are trying to communicate to your dog that the game revolves around interacting the object. The clicker and reinforcement increases the communication around what you want them to do, which is to interact with the object.
Step 4: Have a Plan and Reinforce the Plan
- Now that your dog has learned that interacting with the object is the point of the game, you should have enough behaviors to start to determine what you want the dog to do with the object. For example, I decided that I wanted to shape Odin into standing on the skateboard. Now when we played the game, I would only click and reinforce behaviors that led to him standing on it. If he put one paw on the board, I would click and treat. Once he learned he needed to put a paw on the board, I waited until he offered to put two paws on the table, then I would click/treat. This is still a work in progress for him so I will continue this strategy until he successfully stands on the skateboard. The same type of series of steps goes for any type of behavior you want them to do. Work in small steps which will lead to them completing the behavior.
Breaking the training down into small steps makes the training go faster because the communication is clearer and the dog understands exactly what to do. Using shaping and the “101 Things to do with an [Object]” your dog will start to enjoy learning and exploring new things and will look forward to interacting with you during training.