Teaching The Elephant Trick

Since many people have asked me questions about teaching the elephant trick I thought it might be a good idea to blog about it.

What you need is a bowl turned up-side-down - I use a plastic washing-up bowl with a non-slip surface - A very motivated dog, a clicker and lots of small soft treats.

Place the bowl on the floor in front of your dog. Click the dog for looking at the bowl. Do not lure the dog onto the bowl - Shape the dog to get both front feet on the bowl. Dog on the bowl is the position you want to build a lot of value for. Make it fun for the dog. You can reward the dog with a high value treat for being on the bowl and then give your release command and toss a lower value treat on the floor. When the dog has eaten the treat on the floor he should be hurrying back to the bowl. The dog should be so eager to get his feet on the bowl that he almost can't wait for you to put it on the floor.

When the dog sees the value of the bowl it is time to move a step further. This is the first tricky part of the trick. When the dog stands on the bowl focus on his hind legs - you want to reward any movement of the hind legs. At first it might only be a very small step on a standstill, but pretty soon the dog will get the picture. Then you'll get a step to one side, then a bigger one, then two and so on... Do not use your body language to push the dog to take a step, even though it is tempting. The dog will then depend on your body movement to perform the trick.

The second tricky part of the trick is when the dog has to turn it's back on you to get all the way around the bowl.

Let's say you start out with your dog at 12 o'clock and your self at 6 o'clock. The dog moves counterclockwise. When the dog gets to 8 o'clock he will have to turn his head to the left to perform the rest of the trick.

At this point you have different options. You can click the dog for turning his head away from you and then more and more to the left. At one time the dog will have to move his legs to keep his balance with his head turn very far to the left - and there you have it.

You can also help the dog with a hand target presented on the left side of the dogs head (see the video of Jazz under the post 'video of Jazz').

When the dog has moved passed you at 6 o'clock the rest of the trick it just piece of cake.

Now you can shape your dog to move clockwise too ;)


The dog jumps down of the bowl and offers other behaviors?
- You have moved to far to quickly. Go back - Build more value for being on the bowl before you ask for hind leg movements.

Remember! There are no fixed rules on who to get from A to B. As Bob Bailey says 'get the behavior'. But if you feel an urge to lure your dog, please do not do so more then 3 times in a row. The dog will probably offer you some of the behavior you were just luring. Luring is not shaping and the dog will be depending on your help to do the trick.

Step 1: Dog on the bowl


Step 2: Hind leg movement


Step 3: Head turn with handtarget


The 'finished' head turn