This an impressive bit that is really not that hard to train as long as your little superstar “Roxie” knows a solid retrieve (take and give). If she doesn’t, it is silly to even continue reading this, so go back and find the article under Basic Dog Training and read all three posts to understand how to train Roxie to do a solid retrieve. Then come back here for this fun routine.
The routine is simply this: Have something either in your hand or on the floor. Tell Roxie, “Please throw this away for me.” Like the polite and obliging lady she is (or gentlemen, as the case may be), she takes the object and deposits it in the nearest trashcan.
A cute bit for this is to fake a sneeze and then say, “Roxie, may I have a tissue?” Roxie then goes to the tissue box, pulls out a tissue (that was conveniently sticking out of the box as high as possible) and brings it over to you. After you take the tissue, fake blowing your nose (PLEASE really do make it very obvious that you faked it, otherwise it is way too gross and disgusting), and then hand it back to Roxie and say, “Please throw this in the trash for me.” Roxie takes it over to the trashcan and drops it in for disposal.
Anybody that does not find that super cute, is someone that I don’t even want to talk to.
In case you can’t see how to train the first part, obviously, the tissue is just a simple retrieve out of the box.
1) Start by having her retrieve the tissue off the floor, fake the sneeze and immediately follow it with “take it” (or use whatever your verbal cue is, for the retrieve). Do this a few times (or as long as it takes) until she grabs for the tissue on the sneeze and brings it to you. Take it (then click and treat) and then put the box on the floor with the tissue sticking out as high as possible. She will go to the box, pull out the tissue and bring it to you. You then click and treat. That’s it for the first part of the routine.
But if the box is throwing her off and becoming an issue for her, put the box on the floor a distance away from the tissue on the floor, and then SLOWLY move the tissue (in successive retrieves) closer and closer to the box until it is laying on the box. (Don’t forget to click and treat!)
Now that the first part is trained and over with, the next step is to teach Roxie how to drop the tissue into the trashcan.
Start by having the trashcan on the floor directly below Roxie’s head. Hand Roxie the tissue, and then with your hand directly over the top of the trashcan, ask her to “give” (or whatever your word for give is). The very instant she releases hold of the tissue, you don’t take it but quickly move your hand out of the way so the tissue falls directly into the trashcan. Of course you would also click and treat the moment she let it (the tissue) fall into the container. Do this until she doesn’t need the cue of your hand over the box any longer. When she can drop the Kleenex into the trashcan unassisted, it’s time for our next phase of shaping this routine.
Next, back Roxie a short distance (like a foot or foot and a half) away from the box before handing Roxie the tissue. Now after accepting the tissue from you, and in order to get to the trashcan for Roxie’s deposit of the tissue, she has to take a VERY SMALL step to the can. When she becomes fluent with this small step, and only when she is fluent, it’s time to start adding a verbal cue.
I am sure that you already know the next step, but for those who are slower than you, the next step is, after you hand her the tissue and give her the verbal cue, to slowly add some distance between you and the trashcan. Remember to go slow adding distance at a turtle’s pace. If she messes up, you probably went too fast, so go back to wherever she did not mess up and start from that distance again, only go slower this time.
Also, its time to mention that this trick is called “drop the tissue into the can,” not “drop the tissue sort of near the can,” or “drop the tissue in a close proximity of the can,” or “drop the tissue toward the can.”
At this stage in her training of this trick, she has dropped that tissue into the can many, many times. So it is now only fair to say that the magic clicker will only work and dispense a treat when the tissue actually makes it into the can (no exceptions).
She has to be well-rehearsed enough to know that the tissue goes into the can.
But before you start withholding treats for misses, if you need to go back to where the behavior was solid, then do it. It will do you no harm but plenty of good to back up before you start withholding treats for misses. Please do understand that this in no way means that you never withhold clicks and treats for misses.
The rule to follow here is: When you are sure she knows it and then blows it, there is no payday, no click / no treat.
Now you have a fun and cute little routine to show off your talent and love for Roxie and her genius and devotion to you.
Afterthoughts: There are lots of variations of this theme, such as “put your toys back into your toy box,” “clean up all this trash on the floor,” “put your dirty towels in the laundry basket,” or “here is my empty beer can; throw it in the trash and go get me another.” The boundaries of this routine are limited only by your imagination.
But if you want to change it up, you need to teach Roxie that in addition to taking from your hand, it is okay as well to also to pick up stuff from the floor to put in the can.
If her retrieve is rock solid, this transition from your hand to the floor and then to the can should not prove to be problematic at all.
Like all things with regard to training, start easy and build complexity slowly.