After I posted Bayley’s video of her performing the “Shell Game”, I had several dog people say they’d like to try it with their dog. I thought it might be useful if I shared a few tips that we learned while working out the bugs in this trick.
1. Its best to use clay pots with a drain hole. They are heavy enough that the dog can’t tip them over, and the hole allows the scent of the treat to come through.
2. Start with one pot with the treat under. Wait for the dog to touch the pot with his nose. This will come naturally. Reward the first nose touches with lots of praise. When he is doing this consistently, add your command, such as “find it”.
3. Get more demanding and wait for the dog to touch the pot with the paw. I think natural frustration on the dog’s part will make this happen. Bayley kept nudging the pot with her nose. I had to brace the pot with my hand to keep her from pushing it or knocking it over. Eventually she tried to move it with her paw. At first contact with paw, praise and reward.
4. Keep doing just this one pot for a day or so, or until the dog consistently touches the pot with the paw. You want to dog to have a clear understanding that he is supposed to touch the pot with the paw to get the treat.
5. Next introduce a second pot. At first, just place it next to the “treat” pot and don’t move anything. Encourage the dog to sniff the two pots and touch the correct one. When he does that consistently, then start swapping the position of the two pots and using your command.
6. Again, when that step is solid, put out the 3rd pot. Let him select the correct pot a few times before shuffling them up.
It really didn’t take more that 2 days for Bayley to get this down. The hardest part was transitioning from the nose touch to the paw touch. She had already been taught to nose touch on command, so we had to get past that. But she loves doing this trick.
TIP: Use very high value treats that smell a lot. I started with weenies, and I would rub the weenie bit around the inside of the drain hole to make the smell stronger. Always use the same pot for the treat, so they all don’t end up smelling the same.
When I bought my pots, they had raised letters on the front. Two of them say “herbs” and the third says “basil”. I always use the “basil” pot for the treat. that way I can easily keep track of the right pot, and I tell people that that is her secret for success, because she always looks for the pot that says “basil”.
Have fun with this and let us know how it goes.