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He’s a cute ball of fur and you just want to cuddle him all the time. When you’re not cuddling him though, you want him to entertain you with tricks and play. Okay, this might be asking a little too much. But, you do want to get him doing something that will get guests giggling. Fortunately, there is one such trick that is guaranteed to get onlookers laughing and it’s relatively easy to train him to do, and that is--opening presents. Whether it’s Christmas or a birthday, he’ll have a lot more fun and so will you, if he’s rolling around trying to open a present.
Training your dog to open a present is more than just a neat trick. It’s actually fantastic exercise. Wrap it well enough and you’ve got yourself a toy puzzle to keep him distracted and entertained. This type of training is also stimulating for him. It will get him using his brain as well as his paws.
Training a dog to open a present may sound like a challenge, but it’s actually surprisingly straightforward. The challenge comes in conveying to him precisely what it is you want him to do. Once he understands, you just need the right incentive to ensure he does it again. If your dog is anything like most, the right mouth-watering treat will get him to work. Then it is a question of regularly reinforcing and practicing the behavior.
If he’s a puppy he should be a quick learner and eager to please. You could see results in just a couple of days. If he’s older and not quite as inquisitive as he once was, then you may need a week. Get this training right and you’ll even have your somber mother-in-law giggling.
Before training can begin, you’ll need to gather a few bits. A decent supply of wrapping paper or boxes will be needed. You’ll also need to stock up on tasty treats, or break his favorite food into small chunks.
Set aside 10 minutes each day for training. Try and find a time where you won’t be distracted by a noisy household. You want to capture his full attention.
The only other things you need are patience and a positive attitude. Once you have all that, work can begin!
The Wrapping Paper Method
Spend a few minutes rolling around with your dog and some wrapping paper. Talk in an animated, high-pitched voice and get him excited. You can rip it, play tug of war and do anything you can to get him worked up.
Wrap a treat up
The next day, wrap up some treats in the wrapping paper. The more they smell, the more eager he will be to dive in and get to them.
Present opening time
Now give him the treats that are wrapped up. Encourage him to sniff around and try and get into it. You can point and get excited. His nose will quickly tell him what is inside and then there will be no stopping him.
Make sure he gets a big, tasty reward when he opens the present. You can give him the treats inside and hand over another one. You can also shower him in verbal praise. The happier he feels, the more he will want to play again.
Wrap something new up for him each day, for several days. When it comes to opening presents, practice makes perfect. Keep it light-hearted and fun and he will always be eager to play.
The Verbal Cue Method
Place some smelly food, such as cheese, in a box or wrapped up in paper. You can let him watch you do this. You want him to know what is waiting for him inside. Then once it is wrapped up, you can place it on the floor.
Just before he lunges for it, issue an ‘open’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like. Dogs can learn hundreds of different commands. You will soon be able to instruct him to open presents with a simple phrase.
Wait for him to open the present and then make sure he gets the reward. You can give him some verbal praise too. Give it in an animated voice to really get him excited. You can also give him a toy to play with as a reward.
Practice this every day over the next few days. Make sure you always give the command before he dives in. He will soon know what you want him to do when he hears the phrase.
Lose the treats
Once he has got the hang of it, you can slowly phase out the treats at the end. Instead, you can wrap something else up. The very act itself will be stimulating and enjoyable enough. The food incentive will simply not be needed any more.
The Pull Back Method
Spend a few minutes each day playing with a particular toy. This could be a cuddly toy or a tennis ball. Play fetch, tug of war and really get him as worked up as possible. You want just the sight of this toy to send him crazy.
Have someone else wrap
Head for a room in the house, with your dog, the toy, and a friend or family member. Hold him by the collar and then have the other person wrap the toy in front of him. You want him to know his toy is disappearing.
Once it is wrapped, have the person step away and then continue to hold on to his collar. You can point at the wrapped up toy and talk in an animated voice. Then after a few seconds of him pulling, you can release him. By holding him back you automatically make him want it more.
Make sure once he opens up the present and gets the toy, that you spend a little time playing around with it. Just a minute or so will do the trick. If he doesn’t get a reward he will quickly lose interest.
Practice this for a few minutes each day. Once he’s excited by the mere sight of something wrapped up, you can stop holding him back to start with. His interest will already be peaked enough. After consistent practice, the opening presents game will stay with him for life. So, he’ll be eager to unwrap his present come Christmas time.
By James Barra
Published: 01/04/2018, edited: 01/08/2021