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Dog Tricks: Retrieving from the Refrigerator

This is a pretty complicated trick with several parts. The ultimate goal is to teach your dog to open the refrigerator door, get out a bottle of water, close the door, and bring the water to you.

Down, Boy!

Think about your dog's personality before teaching this trick. Don't teach it to dogs who might be prone to taking advantage of it! I can think of several dogs who would clean out the refrigerator in a heartbeat if they knew how to open the door!

Retrieving the Water Bottle

This is the easiest part of this trick. Your dog knows how to retrieve and has been introduced to a variety of objects, both to touch and to get for you. Adding a water bottle will be no trouble at all.

  1. Start by getting your dog excited about the water bottle so you can teach him a name for it. Tell him, “Fido, Touch water bottle,” and hold it up for him to Touch.
  2. Praise him and pop a treat in his mouth.
  3. Repeat for a total of five repetitions and take a break.
  4. At your next training session, repeat the five Touch exercises and then instead of taking a break, gently toss the water bottle a few feet away.
  5. Tell your dog to get it, “Fido, Get the water bottle!” and when he does, praise him.
  6. Encourage him to bring it back to you and to Give it to you.
  7. Repeat five times and take a break.
  8. Practice these training steps several times over several training sessions.
  9. When your dog is enthusiastic about retrieving the water bottle and will bring it back to your hand when you're standing about six feet away, you're ready to move on to the next training steps.

  10. Prop open the refrigerator door. Clear off an area of a bottom shelf, making sure there are no meats, cheeses, or leftovers that might distract him or lead him to temptation! Place the water bottle on the clear spot on the shelf.
  11. Stand in the open door of the refrigerator, point to the water bottle, and tell your dog, “Fido, Get the water bottle.”
  12. If he hesitates, verbally encourage him and touch the water bottle with the hand that's pointing to it.
  13. When your dog touches the bottle, even if he just touches it with his nose, praise him! This is new territory here, so give him as much help as he needs.
  14. If he takes the bottle in his mouth, praise him enthusiastically, tell him, “Fido, Give!” and pop several treats in his mouth.
  15. Repeat for a total of five repetitions and take a break.

At your next several training sessions, repeat steps 9 through 13, keeping the excitement level high. As your dog's confidence grows, back away from him after he picks up the bottle, asking him to carry it to you.

Down, Boy!

I teach this trick with a plastic water bottle because it's much safer than other drink containers. Glass can break and can cut the dog's mouth if he bites down.

When your dog will walk up to the open refrigerator, take the bottle in his mouth, and walk a few steps to give it to you, you're ready to continue to the next training steps.

Opening the Door

Opening the refrigerator door is the key to this trick; after all, if the door is closed and your dog can't open it, the trick is over before it's begun.

Go through your old towels and choose one to sacrifice. It can be a dish towel or bath towel but needs to be able to fit through the handle on your refrigerator.

  1. Play tug-of-war with your dog with this towel, making a great game of it, “Fido, Get it! Yeah!” As you're playing, begin adding the word Pull while your dog is pulling hard on the towel.
  2. Do this several times each day for several days. You can move on to the next training steps when you can hand your dog one end of the towel, tell him, “Fido, Pull,” and he pulls.
  3. Troubleshooting

    If your dog is startled by the door opening when he pulls on the towel, add another training step. Encourage him to be close to you, open the door, and pop a treat in his mouth. Repeat this until he's over his discomfort.

  4. Drape the towel through the handle of your refrigerator. Use a cable tie or something similar to fasten the towel so your dog can't pull it out of the handle.
  5. With the refrigerator door slightly open (so the seal is not tight), offer the end of the towel to your dog, “Fido, Pull!”
  6. When he takes the towel in his mouth, praise him! When he pulls on the towel and moves the door, praise him even more!
  7. Repeat for a total of five repetitions, take a break, then repeat steps 4 and 5.
  8. You can move on to the next training steps when your dog will pull on the towel, making the door open further, and is not startled about the door moving.

  9. Most refrigerators have a tight seal, so opening the door takes quite a pull. You are going to have to encourage your dog to pull hard to break that seal but then to stop pulling after the door is open. With the refrigerator door shut all the way, tell your dog, “Fido, Pull!” and encourage him to grab the towel. When he Pulls, praise him.
  10. If he opens the door himself, praise him well and tell him to let go of the towel, “Fido, Give,” and pop a treat in his mouth.
  11. Repeat for a total of five repetitions and take a break.

Closing the Door

Most people think closing the door is the most difficult part of this trick, but it really isn't. You will teach your dog to touch a target and then will put that target on the refrigerator door.

  1. The target can be anything that can be put on the door; a sticker works well. Choose a sticker that is at least as big as the palm of your hand. Don't put it on the refrigerator yet.
  2. Hold the sticker in your hand and tell your dog, “Fido, Touch!” and pop a treat in his mouth when he does.
  3. Repeat for a total of five repetitions, take a break, then do it again.
  4. Now you will add the command for closing the door, “Fido, Close,” for example. Have your dog touch the sticker in your hand by saying, “Fido, Touch, Close the door!” and pop a treat in his mouth. He's not closing anything, but you're building an association between those words and Touching the sticker.
  5. Repeat for a total of five times and then take a break. Come back, do it all again, and take another break.
  6. Hold your hand with the sticker in your palm in front of the refrigerator door, do five touches, take a break, come back and do five more. Make sure you're continuing to use the entire command, “Fido, Touch, Close the door!”
  7. Unpeel the sticker and stick it to the refrigerator door at your dog's nose height on the front of the door toward the side where the handle is. Your dog should be able to Touch the door and have it close.
  8. Now do five Touches on the sticker, praise and treat your dog, take a break, and do five more. Use the entire command, “Fido, Touch, Close the door!”
  9. After another break, do five more Touches to the sticker, but this time use the command, “Fido, Close the door!” Praise him and pop a treat in his mouth each time.
  10. Open the door slightly (just a few inches) and have your dog Touch the sticker, using the Close command, and let the door go when he Touches it so that the door closes. Praise your dog enthusiastically and pop a treat in his mouth.
  11. Repeat for a total of five repetitions, take a break, and do five more.

Putting It All Together

Review all of the parts of this trick before you put it all together:

  • Have your dog retrieve the water bottle a few times. First from a short tossed retrieve, then place it on the floor, and then from the shelf in the refrigerator.
  • Do a few easy tug-of-war tugs, then refresh your dog's Pull on the towel on the refrigerator.
  • Last but not least, do a few Touches on the sticker on the refrigerator door.

When your dog will do all of these, you're ready to put it together.

  1. Walk up to the refrigerator, tell your dog, “Fido, Get me a bottle of water.” If he dashes up to the refrigerator, praise him, “Yeah! Good boy!”
  2. Tell him to Pull, praise him when he does, and when the door is open, tell him to Give so he drops it.
  3. Right away (so the door doesn't close on him) tell him, “Fido, Get the water bottle.”
  4. Troubleshooting

    Your dog might drop the water bottle to close the door; he might not know he can do two things at once. Just keep having him pick up the water and then repeat the Close command. When it all comes together, give him a jackpot of rewards!

  5. When he grabs it, praise him, tell him to Hold It, and then tell him to Close the door. When he does, praise him enthusiastically!

    It will take time and practice before you can sit in the living room in front of the television and send your dog to the refrigerator for a cold beverage. But with practice, your dog can do it.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dog Tricks 2005 by Liz Palika. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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