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Canine University 71 Clinton St. Malden, MA

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Trainer's Corner: Improve Your Skills as a Dog Trainer...
101 Things to Do With a Box

A great way to get good at training dogs is to train your dog a lot. The more different things you teach your dog to do the better able you will be move ahead when you come to point in your training where you need to move forward but seem to be stuck. The following exercise will help you become better at shaping behavior, which is one of the most important skills of a good dog trainer. This exercise has been promoted on web sites and in clicker training books for a long time: here is my version of 101 Things to Do With A Box.

Take an empty box and put it in the middle of the floor. Arm yourself with your dog's breakfast or dinner and sit in a comfortable chair. The purpose of the exercise is to click and treat your dog for interacting with the box. He might start off by sniffing it, looking at it, walking towards it and end up putting one or both feet inside, sitting in it or pushing it across the room with his nose. The result will depend upon what you choose to click and treat.

You can start off with a clear goal in mind or just experiment. If you choose a clear goal you will be working on learning how to shape a behavior without a lure or a prompt and get your dog to your goal with only the clicker as information. If you choose to just experiement you will be working on teaching your dog to offer all different kinds of behavior to make the click happen.

I like to play this game every once in a while when I feel like my dogs need a boost of the brain cells because we haven't trained in a while or because I can't think of anything I want to work on at that moment. It is an excellent exercise for both new and experienced trainers because it teaches the trainer how to improve their timing and shape behavior. If you feel rusty because you haven't worked your dog in a while or want to become better at shaping behavior, this exercise will help give you the skills you need to improve your training techniques and make you a better dog trainer.

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