Teaching dog to bring a beer (not a detailed tutorial)

Teaching dog some funny tricks or obedience can be beneficial from many points of view. It is a meaningful way for your dog to spend time, it provides your dog with both mental and physical stimulation and also it reinforces the bond between the owner and the dog. Last but not least it is fun. However, it depends on your attitude and training methods you choose.

I recommend not to think about the training in a way “how to force/convince the dog to do…” or “how to make the dog to respect me and obey my orders”. Try to think how to make it advantageous for the dog to follow your signals. Give him a reason to cooperate with you, so the dog works from its own will. To paraphrase Czech animal trainer František Šusta – Command (cue) is not a duty, it is a chance.

Recently I was thinking about what to teach my dog and I decided to teach him something very useful and practical – to bring me a beer 🙂

There can be more ways how to teach this. I used methods of shaping and chaining.  I divided the whole task into two parts, which I taught on cue separately:

  • To fetch the beer can
  • To open the closet

As my dog is Labrador retriever, the fetching part was not that hard. It was about getting him used to unconventional shape and surface of a beer can. I started with an empty can and then I switched to full can when I had a higher probability that the dog will not drop it to the floor. At first the dog was fetching it from the ground next to me, then I was gradually increasing the distance and finally, the dog was fetching it from the closet when I was sitting on a couch.

The part with opening the closet was taught using shaping, which is a gradual approximation of some behavior to some desired target behavior using operant conditioning. At first, behavior which can be very far away from target behavior (but we assume, that it is a step forward to target behavior) is being reinforced, then behavior which is closer to target behavior (is fulfilling higher standards) is being reinforced and ultimately we gain the target behavior itself.

Then, both parts were put together using chaining, which is basically giving the cue B after the cue A so the dog is then automatically doing both taught behaviors in a row.

So here is a short clip including the trick itself:

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