How to Train Your Dog to Cover His Nose

Medium
1-2 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

There are certain foundational behaviors that every responsible dog owner knows their pet should master for the health and safety of both Fido and the humans he or she will interact with. ‘Sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’, and ‘wait’ are all useful commands your dog will need on a regular basis in order to be a responsible member of doggy society. What many owners fail to realize, however, is that your pet is capable of learning so much more than the basics. Teaching additional tricks and behaviors is not only fun, but can also help improve your dog’s overall obedience and builds an even stronger bond between pet and owner. One of our favorite versatile behaviors is teaching your dog to cover his nose. Let us tell you why…

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to cover his nose on command is a single behavior that can be worked into a number of humorous or useful situations. Imagine a dinner party with friends where Fido makes an uncharacteristic appearance to beg at the table. Instead of appearing as if you have an ill-mannered pooch, jokingly berate him and give the command to cover his nose and you have an instant look of shame, and a shared laugh. The behavior also is a great distraction to redirect your dog’s attention when need be.

Getting Started

Before you get started teaching your dog to cover his nose, you will want to gather a few essential supplies. Treats, and plenty of them, are an important part of any training session. Your treats should be high value, meaning that your dog is very interested in them. This will help ensure their attention is on you and the task at hand rather than some other, more interesting distraction.

A treat bag is also a great accessory for training. A bag that clips to your belt or waist not only holds treats at the ready, it also frees up both of your hands for throwing toys, treating, praising or giving commands with hand gestures.

While training, it’s important to remember to take it slow when teaching a new behavior. Complicated behaviors, such as your dog covering his nose, require laying down foundational building blocks or steps. Make sure your dog has thoroughly mastered the first step before moving onto the next. This will help create a solid response and will lead to a better learning experience overall for you and your pooch. With that in mind, it’s time to select a method for training your dog to cover his nose.

The Annoyance Method

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Step
1
Annoy your dog
Start out with your pooch in a ‘down’ position. Encourage him to be calm and get his attention, perhaps with a few warm up commands. After your dog is sufficiently ready for training, place a small sticker or Post-it note on his nose.
Step
2
Treat for touch
Watch your dog carefully. When he inevitably lowers his nose or raises a paw to swipe the annoying object away, immediately treat and praise. This will demonstrate for your pooch that putting a paws on his nose will result in a treat.
Step
3
Repeat and add a cue
Repeat step two numerous times, replacing the sticker if necessary. You should start to see your dog readily covering his nose with his paws. Once this is happening, add in a cue word such as “shy” or “ashamed.” You should say the cue word as you are placing the sticker on your dog’s nose.
Step
4
Remove the sticker
Once your dog has repeated this many times with the cue word, it’s time to remove the sticker. Keep your dog in a ‘down’ position and give the command only. If your dog doesn’t offer up the behavior after a moment, repeat the command. If after repeating the command 2-3 times your dog doesn’t perform the trick, go back to step 3 for additional reinforcement.
Step
5
Lengthen and strengthen
Once your dog is covering his nose reliably, start to delay your reward, forcing your dog to either repeat the behavior or hold his paws over his nose for greater lengths of time to earn the treat. Repeat this in multiple surrounding and remember to work slowly for the best results.
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The Nose Under Object Method

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Step
1
Hide a treat
Once your dog is covering his nose reliably, start to delay your reward, forcing your dog to either repeat the behavior or hold his paws over his nose for greater lengths of time to earn the treat. Repeat this in multiple surrounding and remember to work slowly for the best results.
Step
2
Add a cue word
Once your dog has figured out that it pays to be nosy, add in the cue word. “Ashamed” or “shy” or “hide” are good ideas for commands for this behavior. You should say the keyword when you hide the treat to help your dog make the connection. Repeat multiple times.
Step
3
Remove the lure
Once your dog is going to the cushion or pillow on cue, it’s time to remove the treat bribe or “lure.” Say the command only, without hiding a treat. If your dog goes to investigate the pillow as if there may be something under it, immediately treat and praise. Your dog should begin progressing quickly once he understands that placing his head under the cushion and covering his nose still gets him food and goodies.
Step
4
Increase time
Once your dog is covering his nose on command, start increasing the amount of time before giving up the treats. Add in a release word at the same time you give the treat and slowly increase the amount of time your dog keeps their nose covered before giving the release word and treat.
Step
5
Change it up
Once your pet is performing reliably, it’s time to change things up. Start out by alternating the pillows with other similar objects. Place a newspaper on the floor or on top of a low table. Hide treats and work up to removing the lure for these. Before you know it, your dog will reliably be able to cover his nose with whichever object you direct him to.
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The Target Method

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Step
1
Touch the target
Start out with your dog in a down position on the floor in front of you. You may want to sit in front of your dog. Place a wad of tape or other fixed item to the end of a stick. Place it in front of your dog near their paws. Attempt to get your dog to play with the “target.” When your dog touches their paws to the item, immediately treat and praise.
Step
2
Add in a 'touch' cue
After you have repeated the touch, praise and treat routine multiple times, your dog should start touching the target regularly. When this happens, start adding in a command word such as “touch.”
Step
3
Move the target
Move the target further away from your dog and repeat the touch command. Raise the target in the air, to the left and to the right of your dog. Train your dog to touch the target wherever it may be.
Step
4
Touch target to nose
Once your dog is following the target reliably, begin touching it to his nose exclusively. When your dog covers his nose, immediately treat and praise. Repeat numerous times so he is used to touching his paw to his face.
Step
5
Add a new cue
Start fading out the ‘touch’ cue when your dog covers his nose with his paws. Touch the target to his nose and say nothing. After some repetition, start adding in another cue word appropriate for this specific touch behavior such as “shy“ or “shame”.
Step
6
Remove the lure
After you have solidly reinforced the cue word with touching the nose and covering the nose, remove target and give the command only. If your dog doesn’t immediately cover his nose don’t worry. Simply go back a step or two.
Step
7
Repeat
Repeat the ‘shame’ or ‘shy’ command multiple times in lots of different settings. The idea is to get your dog to perform on command no matter where he may happen to be. While playing in the backyard or when out on a walk are both great times to reinforce the command with plenty of surrounding distractions.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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