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OK, for you training gurus: We have a tree which drops maybe 50 pine cones a day onto our yard. I'd like to train the dog (mid/large sized) to run around and pick up the cones and drop them into a bucket with eventually minimal intervention from me. Dog already knows basic obedience (sit/stay/down/come/drop it).

Can it be done?

How to do it, step by step?

Thanks in advance !
 

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I'm certainly no guru, but it absolutely can be done. With clicker training. Do you do any clicker training? You'd probably have to familiarize yourself with how it works and invest some time into training, but it can easily be done and it would be fun! You can "chain" behaviors together and you should teach him these behaviors starting with the last in the series. For example, in this case, you'd teach him to drop the pinecone in the bucket first. Does he know "drop it"?

That's how I'd start.

I have found that there's no one way to clicker train a certain behavior. You just kind of have to figure out a way to get the behavior you want and then reward it. For example, I wanted to get Jaia to tug on a cloth (to open a door), but he wasn't interested in tugging on the cloth. He'd put it in his mouth but then let go because he was weirded out about having it in his mouth. So I got his flying squirrel (he loves to tug on that) and I laid the cloth across it so he had to grab the cloth, too. Eventually he got the idea that I wanted him to tug on the cloth.

So, you may have to work with him to give him the idea.

I talked to a woman who taught her dog to bring her a kleenex when she sneezed. LOL
 

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Much easier to do if you have a dog that loves to retrieve or chase a ball but, it can be taught. One danger though....pines cones are dangerous if they are ingested so, you want to make sure he/she doesn't become fixated/obsessed with them or has a 'hard' mouth that breaks off pieces while gathering them.
As FourIsCompany stated the usual method is to teach the Hold (take it in his/her mouth) and Drop It (or Give) first. You can start with the retrieve first but, it usually takes a little longer that way.
You can try to skip a step or two by waving and shaking a pine cone (make it interesting) then toss it and encourage him/her to Get It. If you get no response or just a puzzled look, you'll have to start from scratch.
Hold is taught by GENTLY placing the object in the dogs mouth. One hand is placed under the lower jaw to prevent the dog from dropping it. The other hand strokes the dogs head while giving praise for the Hold (Yes! Good Hold! ...or, whatever your bridge word is).
This can be a long process and might take weeks to master.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
He understands "Hold".

He understands "Drop it" though he doesn't seem to get that I mean drop it in the bucket as opposed to drop it just beside the bucket (ie previously drop it just meant drop it anywhere).

He understands fetch but only in the context that I just threw something, not in the context of 'go pick up one of those pine cones'.

How do you link it all together ?

Never used a clicker before and rather not now if there is another way.
 

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There are other markers you can use besides a clicker, but a clicker has been proven to be quicker and more effective than a verbal marker.

I would have a look at clickertraining.com for ideas on how to teach your dog (and you) shaping a behaviour and chaining behaviours together. Like I said, you don't HAVE to use a clicker...but once you try it you may be pleasantly suprised at how easy it can be and how effective.

Most animals that are trained as service animals (for the disabled especially, as opposed to just guide dogs) are trained with clickers as well as many animals of all kinds used in television and movies.

The idea is to shape a series of behaviour, slicing it into very small parts...go to cone, pick it up, carry it, go to bucket, nose in bucket, drop. Each piece is learned separately and then linked together. Just like teaching a retrieve, it is easier to start at the 'back end' by teaching the drop in the bucket FIRST and put it on cue and THEN work on hunting out the pinecones and getting them to the bucket.
 

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He understands fetch but only in the context that I just threw something, not in the context of 'go pick up one of those pine cones'.
Fetch is the favorite games for my male Sheltie. He understands "Ball" and will go after every ball in the room. We had a contest one night at the dog club to see how many balls each dog could get in 1 minute. There were 2 dozen tennis balls spread around and 1 bucket. We won against several Goldens and a Lab...he got 7 balls and the nearest competitor got 4.
Dogs did not have to drop them in the bucket...just bring them to the handler who then put them in the bucket.

I bring that up because you can make a game of it and don't have to actually teach him to drop them in the bucket if you're there to help him.
 

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He understands "Drop it" though he doesn't seem to get that I mean drop it in the bucket as opposed to drop it just beside the bucket (ie previously drop it just meant drop it anywhere).
Teach him to put his head in the bucket. This is where the clicker is invaluable to me. I wouldn't even bother with other words, because I'm just not good enough to say the same thing every time and get the timing right, but you might well be better at it than me. :)

But if you teach him to put his head in the bucket, that's your linking step between "hold" and "drop it".

By the way, we also have pine cones and we're having rocks put in our yard, so I think I'm going to teach this, too. LOL
 

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Thanks for the tips and let me know how it goes. Maybe we could create a whole new type of service dog to be used by the parks board .......
 

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He understands "Hold".

He understands "Drop it" though he doesn't seem to get that I mean drop it in the bucket as opposed to drop it just beside the bucket (ie previously drop it just meant drop it anywhere).

He understands fetch but only in the context that I just threw something, not in the context of 'go pick up one of those pine cones'.

How do you link it all together ?

Never used a clicker before and rather not now if there is another way.
You could teach him what the bucket is by putting something he already knows the name of in the bucket, and have him find it and repeating bucket when he finds it and sticks his head in. Your asking a lot that way though.

Then go for drop it, or what I did was teach "put it". But my dog already knew the name of the object and the place. She knew pine cone by name and would go get one on command.

Having her put one in a bucket wouldn't have taken long once she knew put it and what a bucket and pine cone was. I used no clicker, or even food to train her most things. The border collie side might have helped that though and nice fetch obsession for a motivational drive I could use.

You might need to start with a foundation by teaching names of about 10 things, and names of several places to go. Rooms, a mat, table, car etc. And names of things like shoe, ball, frisbee etc until it's generalized that words can be things and places starting with easier more natural subjects.

Shouldn't be hard after that if you can do it, as well as easier teaching so many other things like closing doors, putting anything he can learn the name of anywhere etc.

I started the name thing with toys, teaching different names for them by repeating the name a lot when I picked it up to play, repeating go get it every fetch and eventually adding the name and starting the play session with her go get-ting the right toy and not earning a fetch unless she got the right toy. I taught places with a "find it" command and hiding toys and repeating the place name when she went there and found it until finally ending up telling her where it was and her going there.

Put it came last, and wasn't very hard. Starting with my lap or my hand to earn another fetch and working up from there to the coffee table, chair, sofa, or any room in the house or the car etc.

You could likely shape it quicker with behavior shaping and a clicker, just relating the only way I have experienced success with that kind of thing without one. It is a lot of concepts for a dog to learn though, you'll have to break it into small steps regardless.

Mind you that she didn't get solid at "go get X" "put it Y" in a week, it was more like a couple of years working up to that before she really got solid at basically putting anything anywhere. After all that though teaching a new name for thing or place took about 5 minutes. The best she ever got was 3 terms in a sentence, go to X get Y put it Z.. if I added a #4 command she forgot about before she got to it.

Dunno how dangerous pine cones are, she chomped em up for 10+ years and wasn't soft with em at all.
 
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