Messing around with a box


New Member
Today I took out a box to mess around with. I've done a little bit before with Bayley sticking her nose in the box and she remembered that today no problem. I'd like to move on to having her put a paw in the box eventually and maybe both front paws. I know to click and treat for anything like her touching the box with her paw etc. My thing is when I wait for her to do something else, she sits looking at me and then the box, then she touches the box with her nose and looks back at me. I don't want to frustrate her. Today I just worked a bit with the box and went on to something else.


Experienced Member
I love the box game!!!! I think you might be asking for too much though. Just click anything at all, maybe even looking at the box, moving towards it, moving behind it, anything. Part of the problem is probably clicking too much at one stage. If she nose touches, you click, nose touch, click, you will get stuck in that same pattern. It's hard to avoid, but to get out of it you need to stop clicking what you just did. IF the dog is in the game and they don't get clicked, they get frustrated and should try harder the next time. They may still do a nose touch, but it will be a harder nose touch, or 2 noses touches, or... A harder nose touch is still something different, so i would click it. You need to have a high rate of reinforcement going on so your dog doesn't give up as easily.

I would focus on teaching her to keep trying rather then the specific goal of paw in the box right now. It may help to bring out a new object where she isn't so set on just a nose touch, or to turn the box upside down, or on its side, etc. If you really want a paw right now, then maybe try throwing the treat inside the box so she has to step inside. Even if she doesn't step inside of it, you could click her head going down inside the box, throw another treat, click head going inside, throw treat, click, and then start having her come back to you to get the treat to set her up to do it again.

Just be patient. When you're first trying shaping it's easy to get frustrated and trapped into clicking the same thing over and over and having your dog give up and stare at you. AT least she understands she has to move away from you though! It is also helpful to try and click DURING the behavior and not after. So click while she is nosing, and not she noses, you wait to see if she'll do something else, and then click 1/2 sec late. The later you click the more you're clicking her doing nothing, or actively avoiding the box!


Experienced Member
Great box advice Fickla. I also suggest adding click and hold the treat away from the box so the dog must leave the box to get the treat. Similar to shaping go to mat-u want the dog to get its the MAT that is central and go back to it to offer behavior. This creates a thought pattern of returning to the BOX that it is the BOX that is key not just paws or nose. It's also a bit of a reset and lessens the stalemate at the box. Look at the box urself - not the dog - they pick that up. Reset by moving the box or turning on sides etc. Don't do a lot with the box urself, or try too hard. Let them think on it a bit. Take play breaks and do things the dog knows after a minute or two so there is success sprinkled in. 1-2 minutes is a long time for some dogs so short is better. We're working boxes too-this all good advice from my trainer and some self experimentation. :dogcool:


Well-Known Member
I love freeshaping, it helps me work out how my dog's thought processes work. One day Jenna and I were experimenting with the Manners Minder that we had just got. She had to go out and touch the target I would click and then she would go to the MM at the other end of the room for her reward. Anyway she decided that all that walking between the target and MM was a waste of energy so she touched the target, I clicked and released the reward at the MM, she looked and checked the treat was there without leaving the target and then hit the target again. Well OK I thought I'll click that and dispense a second treat at the MM which she then went and collected. We continued like this for a couple of goes each time she would only collect the treats on the second go, provided I also dispesed one for the first go.Then she decided that even this was to much walking so she picked up the target stick took it over to the MM, placed it alongside the MM, touched it and then looked at me for her click. Well I clicked and payed up because my dog showed that she was using her brain but I went away from that exercise realising that I had underestimaited my dogs thought process. Even though this had not started of as a freeshaping exercise I was curious to see where my dog would go with this exercise once she started freeshaping. Some people underestimaite the benefits of freeshaping but it encourages you dog to thing for his/herself even if the first contact with a box is an accident, reward it and your dog will get the idea. With time your dog will start to offer other things but innitially you will be rewarding some accidental behaviour. If the dog then tries these behaviours again you know that he/she is learning how the game is played.
While I don't know if its the right thing to do I allow some freeshaping when I'm teaching new tricks, my dog then gets some input to the trick, sometimes resulting in the opportunity for a fresh trick that I hadn't considered or her idea of the trick is better. Possiably not a good method but it works for me and this particular dog and she has taught me alot.