As a result of our recent video on how to tug off clothing, we had a follow-up question from Robin: “How do you teach the dog to put ON socks?”
It's a lot more tricky than pulling off but can be done using targeting, tugging, shaping, and chaining. If you have limited hand dexterity, you will need a helper until your dog learns what to do. Your are training your dog to use his mouth as your hand/fingers would be used. Requires your dog to have a fairly high level of shaping experience.
There is more than one way to do it! For both of these methods, it may help to think of this process as your dog holding a ring and pulling or pushing it over a stick (like a ring toss). The ring in this case is the pant leg gathered up. The stick is your foot.
To make it much easier for your dog, start by training your dog to place a somewhat stiff material hoop over your leg and pull/push it upwards to your calf (for sock) or your thigh (for pants). This way, your dog understands the finished behavior, then applies it to the new clothing which involves manipulating bulky clothing. Roll up your pant legs (or put on tights) to make the beginning easy for your dog.
You can make a suitable-sized ring by wrapping strips of material (such as old T-shirt or bed sheet) around a circle of material to make a large first-aid donut. (see tug toy video for method). Ensure the donut is large enough to pass as far up your leg as your dog will need to pull your pants. Make a smaller one that is just larger than the diameter around your calf for practicing before putting on socks.
A helpful video might give you the idea for shaping the behavior. (ring toss with Savvy). Remember, the ring is the clothing, the stick is your leg and the stick tip is your toes.
Of course, you can help your dog by moving your foot. Read the rest of this blog first before watching the video so you know why you are looking at it.
One way is to start with easier clothing than a sock so the dog gets the idea of the behavior required first, then it can be fine-tuned (shaped) with practice and applied to socks.
For example, after you have trained the leg ring, start with a pair of loose shorts, then knee length track pants (even if you have to cut an old pair shorter-check out garage sales and second hand stores), then full length track pants. Work through the process below with each of them starting with the shorts and increasing the length of the pant as the dog is successful. This helps him to get accustomed to handling more bulk.
Lay the short on the floor (placing foot through the leg hole at first and piling up the shorts on the ground around your ankle.( If it helps, tie the short leg into a ‘hoop’ with 2 or three pieces of string.)
C/t any interest in it, or grabbing the pant leg. C/t any success in the upward direction. When your dog is consistently pulling your clothing upward in small or medium motions, he has the idea! (This is where your patience and practice comes in). You may want to give this behavior a cue such as ‘pull up’.
Now your dog can (in a series of steps which can all be rewarded at first,) shimmy the pant up by grabbing alternate sides of the shorts to where a height where you can either pin it in place between your knee and a hard surface or between your hand and knee to allow her to repeat the behavior to move it further up your leg. Lots of c/t as she progresses!
When your dog is successful with pulling the shorts up try the half length pant. Repeat as with shorts but pile the pants in a tube. When she can pull it up to your thigh, leave the ankle end out a little so less is piled in a ring and she has to learn to pull it on (horizontally) as well as up (vertically) to put it on you. When she can successfully do one leg, add the second leg. Hopefully you can pull the track pant up the rest of the way (to your hips) yourself or have suspenders attached to give you leverage. Now progress to longer track pants and then slightly tighter clothing. Use the same process to pull on arms for shirts etc.
Once your dog can do the pull up behavior on several tighter pieces of clothing, start training on big loose socks. Place one on your foot but the top loosely piled around your ankle. Place your foot on the ground, and cue dog to tug one side up. Then the other, then shimmy it up alternating side until it's all the way on.
As your dog is successful, put a little less of the sock on each time until she can pull the sock on and up all the way on her own. Then increase the tightness of the sock as you did for tugging off the socks.