Helping Paws: Train Your Dog to Help Around the House
Two behaviors you can teach your dog to make your life easier at home.
These two tricks will keep your dog on his toes and help you out at home.
1. Laundry day
One handy trick that will also tire your dog out is teaching him to carry one side of a laundry basket or other heavy object – you’ll carry the other side. (This is best for larger dogs, but small dogs can carry smaller loads.)
One friend of mine who owned horses taught her dog to assist her in carrying the full muck bucket after cleaning stalls – a very useful skill because muck buckets are too large to be picked up by one person.
To teach this behavior, start with an empty laundry basket with a thick rope tied to one handle. The basket must not be taller than your dog’s shoulder or he will not be able to get leverage to carry it. Using the “pick it up” command, ask him to grab the rope. If he is reluctant, practice tugging with the rope first before attaching it to the basket, so he learns that the rope is fun. When he grabs the rope, reward him with a treat or by tugging with another toy. Then ask him to grab the basket rope and walk a step or two toward you, dragging the basket. Soon he will be jumping to grab the rope, and you can pick up the other side and practice carrying the basket with him.
Once you are well practiced, throw in some laundry and have him help you carry it through the house. Be careful going up or down stairs, and be sure your dog’s level of fitness is adequate before you ask him to carry a heavy load. Your dog will gain some fitness and you won’t aggravate your own back!
2. Drawers and cabinets
Another fun and simple trick is teaching your dog to close drawers or open cabinets especially if your dog already knows how to push something from learning to open a cracked door. If your drawers are heavy, though, he may need some extra encouragement.
Start with lighter drawers, like those in most newer kitchen cabinets. Give him his cue to push and reward him for touching or bumping the drawer. If you trained him previously using a target, you may need to use that for a few sessions. Praise and reward him for moving the drawer. He will probably extrapolate quickly, since this is very similar to the door trick. Then move on to heavier drawers, like those in a bedroom dresser. With enough reinforcement and praise, your dog will soon be running around the house looking for drawers to close.
One your dog learns these tricks, come up with your own new behaviors based on the needs of your household. Every dog can help in his own way.
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