How to Train Your Dog to Stack Rings

Hard
2-6 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Training your dog to stack rings is one of the most difficult and rewarding tricks you can teach your dog. If you've been working on the standard list of tricks and you're ready to take a leap, this trick might be the perfect thing to tackle. Teaching your dog to stack rings will take much more than one session, so plan to work on it for several weeks. 

This is the kind of trick to try with a dog who has a lot of focus and energy. The concentration it takes to accomplish this task will be the perfect kind of mental game to help your dog relax. You can give it a try with any kind of dog, as long as you effectively communicate what you would like. This trick will also help you strengthen your bond. The two of you will have to work closely together to communicate each step. If you've moved on to advanced tricks, teaching your dog to stack rings might be a wonderful next step.

Defining Tasks

Teaching ring stacking is best suited for working dog breeds and other dogs that enjoy having a job. Breeds like cattle dogs, Border Collies, and Austrailian shepherds are bred to work on farms and use their sharp focus and quick reflexes to herd animals. When they don't have a similar mental and physical outlet, they can develop neurosis or become destructive. Teaching your dog to stack rings is the perfect outlet for all his energy.

This trick is fairly complicated and will need to be broken down into several small steps. Your dog should already be familiar with the clicker or with a cue word to mark good behavior as soon as it happens. Don't let sessions go beyond 15 minutes, and always end with some small bit of progress. With patience and dedication, your dog will be stacking rings in no time.

Getting Started

To get started you'll need to be sure your dog already understands 'fetch' and 'drop it'. These are key to picking up the rings and placing them on the dowel or stick. There are a few thing you'll need to gather before you are ready to begin.

  • Plenty of training treats
  • Stacking rings and a dowel--make sure these aren't too small or too tight of a fit
  • A clicker
  • Plenty of time and patience
As with all training, there is more than one way to accomplish a task. Be sure to read your dog's cues and if one method isn't working, you can try another. If you practice every day and take your time, your dog will be stacking rings without difficulty. 

The Target Method

Effective
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Step
1
Target the stick
Teach your dog to target the top of the stick. Each time he touches it with his nose, say "yes" immediately and give him a treat.
Step
2
Target the ring
Now teach him to fetch the ring. Toss the largest ring and have him fetch it. Say yes and treat him when he fetches it and drops it by you.
Step
3
Target dropping near the stick
Now target him dropping the ring next to the stick. Each time you throw it, only say "yes" and treat him when he drops the ring close to the stick.
Step
4
The jackpot
While doing this he may drop the ring on the stick by accident. If he does, get really excited and give him lots of treats. Reinforce that by moving the ring up the stick, letting him grab it and release it back down on the stick and giving him more treats.
Step
5
Add more rings
Once he starts consistently putting the ring on the stick, add in the others until he can stack all three. Remember, the rings get smaller as you introduce them, and it may take more time to get it right.
Recommend training method?

The Ring on Stick Method

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Step
1
Toss the ring
Start by tossing a ring for your dog to fetch and holding the stick in front of you.
Step
2
Catch the ring
When he brings you the ring, instead of taking it in your hand, catch it on the stick. Say "yes" and give him a treat.
Step
3
Hold the stick out
Once he starts to look for the stick to drop the ring on, try holding the stick a little away from your body. He should move toward it to drop the ring. Eventually, you should be able to place the stick on the ground and he should drop the ring on it.
Step
4
Add more rings
As he gets confident, you can start to ask for other rings. You may need to start by holding the stick again. Eventually, he should be happily stacking each ring on top of the other.
Recommend training method?

The Show Me Method

Effective
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Step
1
Set up the game
Set up the game by placing the rings around where you are sitting and keep the stick near you.
Step
2
Point to the biggest ring
Point to the biggest ring and ask your dog to pick it up.
Step
3
Point to the stick
Point to the top of the stick, even tapping it on the top to encourage him to drop it. You could start by holding the stick in one hand catching the ring. Give him a treat.
Step
4
Keep working
Repeat these steps for the first few sessions. pointing at the ring first and at the top of the stack second.
Step
5
Add in another ring
When he starts to understand you want him to put the first ring on the stick, move on to the second ring using the same steps. Add in all the rings until they are all stacked.
Step
6
Move the rings apart
After several weeks you should be able to place the stick on the ground and move the rings several feet away. When you point to a ring, your dog should pick it up and place it on the stick, and look to you for the next one.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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