Complex Trick Training - Plan


New Member
I have a two year old Staffy cross who I am beginning to teach a complex skill. I am using a clicker as the conditioned reinforcer.

The trick in mind is for her to take a tissue from a tissue box, bring it to me. I use the tissue and crumple it and thrown it on the ground. She then picks it up and puts it in a waste basket.

However, I cannot get my head around forward/backward chaining and what part i should be teaching first and how i would chain them together?

Would love some ideas on how I should approach. She has started sniffing the tissue (which i click and reward) and that's the stage she is at.



Experienced Member
Great trick. I will have a go soon with Fly who is, I think, ready for that.

Here is what I recon your dog should know to get this trick right :
- pick up something, bring it to you and drop it in your hand. Could be a ball, a toy, anything, as long as he drops in your hand if you ask him to.
- Drop in the waste basket and eventually open it if it has a lid. Keep in mind that if you teach your dog to open it, he will be able to do it for himself and eat whatever is in there. It's a question of trust :D

If he can do that. Then that's what I would do :
- Sneeze and say "give me the tissue" and show him what a tissue is.
- Then ask to drop in the basket
If he know what I said earlier, there is no reason why he shouldn't do that. Of course, have everything near you at the beginning (tissue and basket). And time after time, put the object at distance.

Of course, you can use a clicker and try shaping by putting the tissues in front of him so he will rapidly try to pick it up, then help him by opening your hand for him to drop it in it.

Let us know how it goes.


Experienced Member
I agree with Fly, once you have the foundations of both a retrieve to hand a clean up, this trick is a breeze. It's really does not need to be one continuous chain since both behaviors are broken up ending or starting with you and can stick with 2 separate cues: your "achoo" and then "clean up."

As for figuring out backward chaining vs forward chaining, I don't worry about semantics, especially with 2 such short behaviors of pickup-bring, pickup-go (not that they're easy to initially teach). In this case you're doing fine by starting with the pick up and then bring to hand. If you're dog does not already have a retrieve than I would teach that starting with a dumbbell so it's easy for the dog to grab each time instead of worrying about it being hard to grab a flat item that sticks to their tongue.