Close the Door – Introducing the trick name

The final step, to make your dog look very clever is to teach your dog the trick name such as “Close the door”, rather than a simple push

This time it is going to be a little bit different than previously as you dog already understands “Push” but we want to introduce a more fun sentence.

What you need to do now is to fade the “Push” and replace it with “Close the door”

  1. Place your dog in position to go to close the door
  2. Give the new command “Close the door” immediately before saying “Push”. You should try to say this as if it was a continuous sentence.
  3. After several repetitions your dog will start anticipating that you are going to say push after you said “Close the door”.
  4. Start to fade the “Push” and just say “Close the door”.

The first video illustrates why you it is important to introducing the new command by saying “Close the Door, Push” rather than “Push, Close the Door”.

When in introducing the new command (“Close the door” in this example), If you use the “Push” command before the “Close the Door” command it is likely that your dog will become uncertain what to do. This is because it does not yet understand what the new command means. Your dog hears the Push command but then hears another strange command and it will then question what it has been asked to do. You can see this clearly in the next video.

In the following video, Leo has a much better understanding of what is expected as he hears Push after Close the Door. As Leo starts to understand the association of Close the Door and Push, Emily can start fading out the Push command.

When your dog has mastered this trick, do not forget to start generalising the trick to all sorts of doors, just like Leo in the example at the end of the second video. I cannot wait to see your video on the Facebook group!

Close the Door – Without a target

Having worked on increasing your dog’s accuracy for closing the door, the next challenge is to remove the target object altogether. Without using a target, you will really be able to appreciate if your dog understands the trick.

For your dog’s first attempts at closing the door once you have removed the target, keep things simple. Let your dog approach the door from a relatively simple angle and only open the door by a small amount. Some dogs will be confused by the lack of target so maximising their chance of success is important to maintain their confidence.

As you will be able to clearly see in the next video, Leo is initially confused by the lack of the target and needs Emily to direct and reassure him that he is still required to push the door.

With the target removed your dog may start taking shortcuts and stop closing the door fully. If this happens, remember to stick to your criteria, wait until your dog is fully closing the door before giving the Yes or the Click

Remember that you also need to continue generalising the behaviour. Although you are working with the door only slightly open, change your position relative to the crate so that your dog approaches the door from different angles. As you move around make sure to keep an easy approach to the crate for your dog.

Close the Door – Be accurate

You are reaching a stage where you really want accuracy for the behaviour and the only criteria you want to mark and reward is for your dog to close the door.

If your dog is not fully closing the door:

  1. Make the exercise easier by reducing how open the door is.
  2. Delay your Yes or Click to when your dog has fully closed the door rather than when your dog has made contact with the target

The steps you should now be using are:

  • Ask your dog to Push
  • Your dog goes to the open door and pushes on the target and the door starts to close
  • When the door is fully closed use your Yes marker to let your dog know this is the desired behaviour.

Finally, you are going to progressively make the push harder for your dog by moving further away from the crate and making the angle of approach to the door more complicated.

Close the Door – Fading the target

You are now going to generalise the behaviour and fade the target so your dog can close any doors without the aid of a target.

The method is to keep repeating the trick whilst progressively reducing the size of the target until eventually a target object is no longer required. When starting to use a smaller target object, introduce your dog to the object first by using the Push in your hand trick.

When your dog is consistently pushing on the new smaller target in your hand then fix the target on to your door. Do not be tempted to do this if your dog is not showing sufficient interest in the target in your hand.

Push on a Wall

You may have guessed that we are very close to achieving your final trick with the Nose target, which will be to close a door! But be patient, we still have a few steps to work towards to first!

To mimic a door, you are going to position the lid on a vertical stable surface, such as a wall. Working with a stable surface is important.

The objective is two folds:

  • Your dog needs to learn to push on a vertical surface
  • Your dog needs to be confident to move away from you toward the lid. We worked this in the previous weeks when dissociating your position in relation to the target so it should be easy this time

The lid can be fixed on a wall or, as we are demonstrating in the following videos and describing in the text, on a gym step that has been tipped on its side. I used some blu-tack to fix the lid to the step.

Some dogs struggle to transition from a push on the floor to a push on a wall or vertical surface. If this is the case, start by asking your dog to push the lid first whilst it is in your hand, then blu-tack the lid to the wall and gradually move your hand away. In this instance reward in the lid again to bring back value to the lid and build your dog’s confidence

In the following video we demonstrate with Mozzie performing the Push on an object on the floor before reverting to a push an object in the hand. This shows us that Mozzie has a good understanding that the desired behaviour is all about pushing in the lid no matter where it is.

In the next video we start fading from a Push in the Hand to a Push on the object when its mounted vertically on the Gym Step.

In addition to the difficulty of switching to a target to on a wall, another challenge for your dog is the inability to see you when moving forwards to push the target, so be patient.

  1. Work on getting your dog to target the Lid in your hand whilst you hold it against the step. Remember to place the reward in the Lid, do not reward from your hand and try not to drop the reward on the floor
  2. Once you dog is consistently targeting the lid, use some Blu-Tac or tape to attach the lid to the step. Now ask your dog to Push and reward in the lid each time that it does it correctly.
  3. Start moving away from the step and then ask for the Push. Initially move back towards the step with your dog to provide encouragement and reward in the lid only when it pushes it.
  4. Slowly fade you own movement and only start moving to go to reward in the lid. You will build your dog’s confidence that going to the step and pushing is correct without you having to lure it back to the step
  5. When your dog is consistently going to the step and Pushing the Lid, start to increase the distance between yourself and the step. Start to trust that your dog knows what is required from it when performing the Trick.

Push any Object

During the previous Push tricks, we have been working with the same object, a plastic lid. By introducing new objects to your dog, it is now time to start generalising the Push to any object. This is another step to make sure your dog has really understood the behaviour.

In the next couple of videos, we will discuss and demonstrate introducing some new objects to Mozzie. The type of object you can use for this stage is only limited by your imagination.

When you start with a new object, reward on or next to the object to give value for this new object.

In the first video you will notice Mozzie struggling with the new object, especially when it is placed away from both Emily and the food. This shows how important it is that as soon as your dog is more confident with the trick to start to change your position. Your dog must learn to dissociate your position from the behaviour. Mozzie was not confident yet with the new objects to be able for Emily to move away from the object.

In the next video, we are using a wooden spoon. We start by tilting the spoon low on the ground, for Mozzie this makes the spoon very similar to the lid. As Emily gradually raises the spoon and you will notice how Mozzie struggles more with it targeting it.

Push – Separate the reward from the object

When your dog pushes down on the target (a plastic lid in our case) on the floor you have been rewarding your dog in the Lid. Even when you were sending your dog to the Lid from a distance, the reward was still presented in the lid. This was to give a strong value for the lid.

Now that your dog has a strong value for pushing the lid, the next step is to start to reward anywhere. To achieve this, you are going to begin varying where you give your dog the reward after it has pushed on the lid. 

Additionally, you are going to start positioning yourself anywhere in relation to your dog and the lid. Your dog needs to understand that it has to Push the lid irrespective of where you are located. If it does not, your dog will only learn to offer the trick when facing you, as this is the position you are commonly in when starting to teach a trick.

For your dog to understand to dissociate your position from the lid you will be following the steps below:

  • Reward sometimes in the lid, but importantly also reward anywhere else by throwing a treat for your dog.
  • Reward anywhere, means anywhere. Make sure that you reward in front, behind and either side of your dog at varying distances. Your dog needs to proactively go back towards the Lid to push it
  • Do not be predictable about where you are rewarding your dog. The idea is that your dog does not know where it will receive the treat each time it does the trick.
  • Move around; change your position relative to the Lid. When you can reward anywhere this is also much easier to do
  • Do not stand too close to the Lid. If you do, your dog will associate that since you are near to the object you are also part of the trick. You need to start learning to trust your dog and get it to work over larger distances.
  • Occasionally you will still need to reward in the lid. This is to maintain a high value for the Lid. If you do not, you will notice that gradually your dog will not push as actively in the pot. This is because your dog will start anticipating the reward and is prepared to take a short cut to get to it.

I like testing my dog by sending him away to the pot so he cannot see me and rewarding even further away so he is learning not to turn back to me to claim his treat.

If you are able to progress quickly with this trick, start pushing the distances that you can do it over. How far away from the lid can you be located and still be successful?

Push Part 1: Summary

This week you will have worked on 3 tricks, all related to nose targeting

  • Pushing on your hand
  • Pushing on an object held within or as an extension to your hand
  • Pushing on an object that has been placed on the floor

These tricks will be needed to progress to another stage so make sure you have a strong foundation.

If you dog already has a knowledge of these tricks, do not be complacent, try to work on the environment, distraction, duration, and distance this well be very useful further on in the school.

Tips: Preventing mouthing of the target

When working with the target object in the floor, some dogs try to mouth or toss the object around with their nose or paws. There are a couple of tips to resolve this:

  • When working with the target object on the floor, some dogs may try to mouth or toss the object around with their nose or paws. There are a couple of tips to resolve this:
  • If you are in the kneeling position, place the lid in between your knees so that your dog cannot play with the lid but can still target it with its nose.

Push on a target on the floor

By now your dog should now be consistently pushing the object held in your hand when you give it the Push command.

The next step is to transfer the position of the object from your hand onto the floor. When asked to Push your dog should target the object and not your hand.

Again, in the description and videos we are using a plastic lid as the target object.

The transfer of the lid from being in your hand to when it is placed on the floor may take a little while to accomplish with your dog. Until now your dog had discriminated that you wanted it to push something that you were holding, now, your dog needs to generalise the behaviour and understand that the important component of the trick is the lid, not you.

  • Place the lid on the floor and reward as soon as your dog shows any interest in it, only place the reward in the lid.
  • Following each attempt, move the Lid. Moving the lid helps stimulate your dog’s interest in it and encourages it to investigate.
  • Start using the Push command when your dog consistently targets the lid
  • Only reward when and if your dog pushes within the lid. Do not reward of your dog is pushing at the edge of the lid or moving it with its nose.


If your dog does not easily transition to having the lid on the floor, start with the lid in your hand and gradually move the lid lower towards the floor with each attempt. Once on the floor start moving your hand away from the lid

The final stage of moving the target to the floor is to work with your dog to target the lid that has been placed on the floor whilst you are standing. You also need to start increasing your own distance from the lid and be in different positions relative to your dog when you give the Push command.