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.

Push on a Target

Having taught your dog to push your hand in the previous Topic, the objective is now to transfer the Push from your hand to a flat object.

The object that I suggest you use is a shallow pot or the plastic lid off the top of a family sized yoghurt or fresh cream pot. These provide a sufficiently large target for your dog to aim for.

The result of the trick is for your dog to “Push” the bottom of the pot, or lid with its nose. This is the same overall trick as in the previous topic, but the target is no longer your hand. In the following text I describe using a lid, as this is the type of object that we use in the associated videos.

  • Put the lid in the palm of your hand and hold it in front of your dog. Give the Push command and reward in the lid when your dog looks at or puts its nose on the lid.
  • When your dog is consistently pushing the lid in the palm of your hand, reposition the lid so that you are holding it with your fingertips. The lid now becomes an extension to your hand.
  • Use your push command and reward in the lid when your dog pushes it.
  • If your dog is not showing interest in the lid, wave the lid a little bit in front of your dog to make it more enticing and worth investigating.

Once your dog is happily pushing on the lid when you are holding it as an extension to you hand, the next step is to add movement. The aim of this step is to get your dog to push when you are in different positions and so that your dog must make a conscious decision to move further to target the object. We demonstrate this in the following video.

Push your hand

The objective of this trick is to teach your dog to target your hand with its nose.

For those of you who have graduated from the CANINE Pawsibilities Puppy School, you will already be familiar with this trick. In the Puppy School we introduce this as “Say Hello”.

For the Tricks for Treats School I simplify the command to only “Push”, but you can still use “Say Hello” if you are used to using this instead.

You are going to be using the Shaping technique to teach this and the two subsequent tricks

Stage 1: Encouraging your dog to investigate your hand, using a piece of food between two fingers

  • Place a piece of food in between two of your fingers so that your dog becomes interested in your hand. Do not hold the treat between your thumb and a finger as this will not allow you to show your open hand to your dog, instead place the treat between your Middle and Ring fingers. You are never going to give this piece of food to your dog; it is just going to be used as a lure to initially get your dog to target your hand.
  • For this trick, we will call the hand holding this piece of treat your “Push” hand, i.e. this is the hand that you want your dog to push with its nose.
  • Show your Push hand to your dog with your open palm facing your dog.
  • Make sure that your dog can clearly see your hand, it needs to be in your dog’s direct line of sight.
  • Keep your Push hand close to your dog’s nose; It must be easy for your dog to find your hand

As soon as your dog comes to investigate the scent of the food between your fingers and touches your hand with his nose:

  • Click or use your Yes command to indicate to your dog that it has performed the desired behaviour
  • Do not move the “Push” hand
  • Reward by using your free hand and put a treat in the open palm of your “Push” hand; Remember you dog is not to take the treat that you are holding between the Middle and Ring fingers of your push hand.

Stage 2: Remove the food that is used as a Lure

When your dog starts to show enough interest in your Push hand, start repeating the steps as described in Stage 1, but this time do not use a piece of food between the fingers in your Push hand.

Emily will demonstrate training Stages 1 and 2 with Mozzie in the next video.

Stage 3: Associating a command to the behaviour

When your dog understands that it needs to push your hand to receive the reward, you can start using a word for the behaviour by saying “Push” whilst you are clicking. Your dog will start to associate the word “Push” with the behaviour.

Be patient; you will probably require several repetitions for your dog to make this association. Imagine if you were learning a new language, it takes time.

Stage 4: Giving the command

When you believe your dog has associated the “Push” command to the behaviour, the subtle change is to start to say “Pushbefore your dog does the behaviour. What you are now doing is turning the word “Push” into a command. Your dog will learn to push your hand with its nose when it hears you giving the command “Push”.

When your dog gives you the behaviour on command, start increasing the distance between your Push your hand and your dog so you dog has to actively come to the hand to push it. You can also move your hand away from your dog as it comes towards the Push hand so that it must chase your hand a little bit. It is a trick, make it fun!

A couple of challenges for those who can already perform the Push/Say Hello Trick

  • Can you change the height of your hand, so you dog needs to slightly hop to get to your hand?
  • Whilst you dog is pushing your hand, will your dog follow your hand to maintain continuous contact with it if you start moving your Push hand away slowly?

Push and Reward anywhere

With time when your puppy has a strong value for the pot that you have been using for “Push”, you will find that you no longer need to reinforce the behaviour in the pot. You will be able to reward anywhere. Be careful to make the transition to rewarding anywhere slowly. Occasionally still reward in the pot so your puppy still finds value in doing the behaviour, but now start rewarding anywhere around the pot.

  1. Ask your puppy to push the pot.
  2. Throw the reward in any direction but not too far from the pot. Your puppy will go and take the treat.
  3. Ask your puppy to push the pot again. It should now return and push the bottom of the pot with its nose.
  4. Occasionally reward in the pot or your puppy will not see the value of pushing the pot anymore.
  5. Be patient. With time you will no longer need to reward in the pot.

Note: your puppy should not hesitate to go and push the pot.


The objective of the “Push” game is to teach your puppy to push the bottom of a pot with its nose (just like you did with the “Say Hello” on your hand)

Push is a simple yet powerful game that can be used in many situations especially for puppies who are more food than toy orientated or can be easily distracted by smells. The pot and the push behaviour can replace the “play and tug” during recalls for example. I use it a lot with Spaniels.

Position the pot close to the nose of your puppy; the pot can be in your hand (which is often easier to start with) or on the floor.

  1. Make the pot interesting by moving it close to your puppy’s nose.
  2. As soon as your puppy looks at the pot click and reinforce the behaviour by rewarding inside the pot. This gives value to the inside of the pot.
  3. Progress by clicking when your puppy puts its nose in the pot rather than just looks at it.
  4. Once your puppy is consistently putting its nose in the pot, move to click when you puppy really pushes the bottom of the pot with his nose.
  5. When your puppy understands the behaviour, add the word “Push” whilst your puppy is pushing the bottom of the pot with its nose.
  6. With time you will be able to give the word as a command. Which means before your puppy is offering the behaviour.
  7. Once your puppy has mastered the behaviour with a single pot you can start playing the game with multiple pots!

Useful Tips:

If the puppy is not showing interested in the pot, I shake the pot a little bit to make it more entertaining or I place the pot on my hand as though it is an extension of my hand, so it looks like I am asking for a “Say Hello”.

To transfer the position of the pot from my hand to the floor, I gradually lower my hand with the pot until the pot is on the ground.

Some puppies try to bite or toss the pot around with nose or paws. In these situations, I either start again by either keeping the pot in my hand as an extension of my hand or I position the pot in between my knees if I am kneeling so the puppy cannot play with the pot