Jump to section
Service dogs require some of the most intense and varied training to be ready to do their jobs. Sometimes it takes years for them to learn all the chores they will need to perform to help their new owners out each day. One of these tricks is learning how to unzip a jacket. This is a handy trick to teach any dog, even if it isn't a service dog. If you have arthritis that makes gripping zippers painful or if you often have your hands full, training your dog to unzip your jacket can be a handy trick.
When you train your dog to unzip your jacket, not only will you be working on a complicated and useful task, but you'll be increasing the bond you have and establishing yourself as his leader. This is a difficult trick with many parts, but when he figures it out, you both will be so proud.
Training your dog to unzip your jacket, whether as part of service dog training or even for fun will take a lot of time and patience. Any dog can learn this task, but it works best to teach a calm and attentive dog, especially because some of the work will require him to be close to your face. You don't want an excitable dog who might accidentally bite, jump up, or paw you in the face while he's working.
Before you attempt this trick your dog must already know basic obedience and be clicker trained. This is an advanced trick and you need to be sure your dog is ready and has a strong foundation for learning. Give yourself plenty of time and only train in short sessions. End each section on a good note, without pushing too far or letting your dog get frustrated.
There are a few things you'll need in order to start training your dog to unzip your jacket. Be sure to gather these tools around you and have them at the ready.
- An old jacket you don't mind getting dirty or ripped
- A piece of fabric, cloth, or nylon rope to attach to a zipper pull
- A small bag with a big zipper
- A clicker
- Tasty training treats
- A quiet place to learn
Below are three different methods you can try to teach your dog to unzip your jacket. Read through them to decide which one will work for you and your dog. With time and consistent training, your dog will be able to give you a hand when your own hands are full.
The Pull Game Method
Begin with play
Start by playing with the piece of fabric or nylon rope you will later attach to your jacket. Ask your dog to grasp it in his mouth and gently tug on it. When he starts to pull it, tell him "good" and give him a treat.
Add the jacket
Now attach the fabric to the zipper pull on your jacket. Don't wear the jacket yet, instead zip the jacket and present the fabric piece to play.
Teach the zip
Hold the jacket by the shoulders with the zipper fully zipped. Ask your dog to grab the piece of fabric and pull. Give him a treat when he unzips the jacket.
Name the command
Keep practicing and start to add the command. when he takes the fabric in his mouth and unzips the jacket, say "unzip" before you treat him.
Remove the treat
When he is consistently unzipping the jacket, slowly stop treating him after you give the command.
Put the jacket on
When he is consistently unzipping the jacket on command, put the jacket on. Sit down and present the fabric to your dog, and ask him to "unzip." When he does, give him a big treat.
The Zipper Practice Method
Choose a training zipper
Choose a zipper to practice with that is big and slides easily. Sometimes children's toys or a zipper on a purse are the perfect tools.
Get down to his level
You can sit on the floor next to your dog or put him on a stool or chair. Just make sure you are working at his height.
Learn to unzip
Extend the zipper pull by attaching a piece of fabric or a nylon rope. Have your dog take it in his mouth and guide his head down with a treat lure. As soon as he starts to unzip, praise him and give him a treat.
Work to a full unzip
Keep encouraging him to pull the zipper until he has it all the way unzipped. Give him lots of treats and praise.
Introduce the command
When he is confidently unzipping the zipper fully, say "unzip" before you give him his treat and as he is pulling the zipper.
Test the command
When you've been using the command with treats for a while, test the command. Present the zipper to him and say "unzip" if he takes the fabric and pulls the zipper down, give him lots of praise and a treat.
Try a jacket
The next phase is to attach the same string or fabric to the zipper pull of a jacket, put the jacket on, and zip it up.
Unzip the jacket
Present the zipper pull to your dog and say "unzip." He should take it and pull the zipper all the way down.
The Clicker Training Method
Load the clicker
If your dog is clicker trained or likes to target, this method is for you. Load the clicker by clicking the button and immediately treating your dog about 15 times.
Target the fabric
Choose the piece of fabric you will attach to a zipper pull and use the clicker to target the fabric. When your dog touches the fabric or picks it up, click and treat. Do this until he is consistently touching the fabric and picking it up.
Attach fabric to a zipper
You can start with any zipper or the jacket you want him to unzip. Attach the piece of fabric to the zipper pull.
Teach him to unzip
He will already be eager to pick up the fabric in his mouth. Wait until he starts to pull the zipper down to click and treat him.
Increase the zip
Increase the amount of zipper he needs to unzip slowly, clicking and treating after a little longer each time until he is fully unzipping the zipper.
Introduce the command
When he is consistently unzipping the whole zipper, start to say "unzip" as he starts to pull the fabric and before he gets a treat.
Test the command
Keep practicing until he grabs the fabric and pulls the zipper right after you say "unzip." When he's consistent, he has the command memorized.
Put on the jacket
The last step is to put on the jacket with the same piece of fabric attached to the zipper pull and ask him to "unzip." If you've done the job right he'll immediately take the fabric and unzip the jacket. Click and treat him.
By Katie Smith
Published: 03/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021