Friday, January 21, 2011

Trick # 4 - Four Feet In a BOX!

This is a repeat, rewritten, post from December 2009. 

This is a great trick with so many benefits!  You’re now thinking I’m totally losing it here, but trust me; I totally lost it LONG AGO!  Seriously, this is one of the best tricks ever!  It teaches rear end awareness, it builds relationship, it teaches the dog to use it feet independently, and one of the biggest benefits – they learn to KEEP TRYING!

How many times have you heard, “He doesn’t like to be wrong”, “He can’t repeat the same exercise over and over”, “He gets bored”, guess whose fault that is?  Just look in the mirror, they learned that from someone!  This trick keep learning FUN, there’s not the pressure of ‘doing it right’, and you get to repeat, repeat, repeat!  Keep these sessions short!  They should be fun and energized! 

I’ll also tell you, this is a MAJOR help in next week’s trick. 

One thing I should mention here, as I’m not sure I’ve said it before.  When ‘shaping’ a behavior, the only one that ‘really’ knows what they ‘think’ is right, is the dog.  In other words, what you might be rewarding might be something totally different than what the dog thinks you are rewarding for.  That’s what makes this so amazing!  You can get ‘accidental’ behaviors that even BETTER than what you had in mind.  Don’t get so caught up in teaching 'the trick' that you lose other opportunities to teach different tricks.  Be creative and click what you like! 

For instance, the video below, I did over a year ago.  As I watch it now, I can see that Seeker did understand to put his four feet into the box, but I think what he thought I wanted him to move his feet.  So, as you watch this keep that in mind.  I made another video showing how I stopped the foot movement.  I was also holding the “flip” recorder in one hand and the clicker and treats in the other.  This did impact my timing as well.  At one point Seeker actually picks up the container, this was do to my lack of ‘quick’ reward.  He wanted to offer another behavior that ‘maybe’ I wanted.  Good boy him! 

So, how do you begin?  You’ll need a box/tote, clicker, treats, and a dog. You know you’ve ‘totally lost it’ when you start looking at totes, and wondering if you’re dog will fit?  Please don’t say this out loud while shopping at your local ‘big box’ store, people might stare!

Get a box, or tote that’s big enough so your dog can comfortably step inside.  I would sit or kneel on the floor for this trick.  As your dog approaches the box, c/t and toss the cookie into the box.  Click the dog looking ‘in’ the box, putting one foot into the box, etc.  Remember to reward often!  In other words, don’t withhold a click for one foot until two feet go in.  Reward the one foot a bunch of times, then second foot will follow faster!  You might even want to watch for the lifting of the next foot and reward that!  The more often you reward, or reinforce, the more likely they will offer that behavior again!

Once you have all four feet in the box, reward duration, for standing in it.  This is the step I didn’t do in the first video, thus I got the dancing feet.  It’s cute!  Not what I was looking for however. It you like it!

When you have 4 patient feet standing in the big box, move to a smaller box.  Repeat the same lesson we did with the bigger box.  Slowly decrease your box size. 

Seeker doesn’t have a command for this box behavior yet.  This reminds me; NEVER name something until you LOVE the behavior.  If you name something before the dog fully understands it, how will they know what you want?  So, only name the behavior when you truly LOVE it!

Have FUN!!

Remember, it’s Only a TRICK!


  1. Good boy! Love the dancey feet. Based on video two I think he is a prime candidate for a headstand. Future trick o' the week??

  2. Great trick!! I really want to try this with my boy. Hopefully it goes as well for us as it did for you.

  3. Shenna, I was thinking the exact same thing. I think he might be able to walk on his front legs. I'll add it to the list.

    Brittany, don't rush! It takes a little time for the smaller boxes. HAVE FUN!

  4. Phoenix loves 4-feet-in-a-box. He's quite insane about it. It has transferred to 4-feet-anywhere, including a few places that do not need to have 4 malinois feet on them! LOL

  5. Does this trick work with long dogs? Mine has short legs and a long back.

  6. Oh Dear! How LONG??? G Just use something that is comfortable for them. Don't get too extreme! VBG