For many pups, nosing and tugging is a natural behavior, and I use a technique called “capturing” to encourage it every time I see it. (Helpful Techniques page).
But nosing and tugging need to morph from simple puppy play to play with a purpose.
A 9 week old will struggle to tug hard enough to open the fridge, and be too short to easily open a lever type door handle, but the base cabinets are fair game! Desk drawers too, and maybe the dishwasher. Or that little drawer in the bathroom?
I’ve actually tied a pup’s tuggie toy through a drawer pull to convince them to give it a tug, and once it opened, there was a big click, a big treat fest, and then they got a game of tug too. I’ve also just closed a drawer with half their tuggie hanging out of it–their natural inclination is to go tug their toy and hey, the drawer came open some!
Once things are opened, I usually just take their little paw and push on the drawer to close it. They get the treat fest all over again–this open and close stuff is awful fun! Once they know how to open, I start hiding treats and balls and bones inside: it becomes self rewarding.
I used to have a toy box for them, but from now on it’s going to be a toy drawer!
While they are little now I let them pull on all kinds of things besides their usual tuggie toy: ropes, straps of every shape and material, even bungee cords with the metal part cut off of one end. Anything I can tie, wrap, or attach to something that opens or moves.
As they get older and stronger, we start on the fridge, and doors of various kinds. By 12 or 16 weeks most Dane pups are big enough to deal with a dishwasher, or a sliding door. I had a Dane that used to love swinging around an office chair in the kitchen by a strap! Silly guy…
Some pup might use the top of their noses, and turn off using a chin. A rocker light switch lets them choose between chin, mouth, and the blunt part of their nose.
Some pups figure out on their own how they want to do it just by messing with a light switch, and some need a little help from your guiding hands. http://www.lifelinecanines.org/ServiceDogsGallery1.htm
9 weeks a Dane is probably too short to work on the lights, but you want them to learn to use the top of their nose, their chins, and the soft wet part too. I do this with good sized soft balls: each of the 3 balls gets moved with a different nose touch.
This usually requires me to “show” them with my hands guiding their heads, then tons of clicks and rewards. They only get a click and reward for using the right part on the right ball, and I’ll show them repeatedly until they are reliable in knowing which.
One of the very important nosing tasks are alerts: they have to be able to touch you when they hear a noise, notice your blood sugar is dropping, or the anxiety/PTSD is starting up. I usually teach this nose nudge or paw tough in conjunction with hearing/anxiety alerts, but I certainly reward anytime they nudge me, even just for some attention. http://assistancedogsinternational.org/hearing.php
Nosing is a great way for them to indicate they have associated a name with an item for the “find it games”. (next post). It gets plenty of reinforcement that way, that’s for sure! But the nosing and tugging doesn’t really need to have word/name associations to begin teaching, which is why I’ve posted it before the find it games.
Here’s a pretty big task list that will require a good foundation of nosing, tugging, (and also mouthing/retrieving I haven’t posted up yet). on off open close home assist list There’s no way you’ll get the whole list checked off by 16 wks, but the point is to set the habits.
It’s a list you’ll be working on for years, but that’s how it goes, training a service dog.