The shake can is a wonderfully simple yet useful tool for dog training.
Let me say at the outset that a shake can is a tool for getting a dog’s attention, it is not a weapon. I am adamantly against the concept of spanking, hitting, smacking or otherwise administering blows to a pet. Doing so is not a part of responsible training, it only teaches your dog that you are someone to fear.
A shake can is constructed from an aluminum can with five to ten coins placed inside. The opening in the can is then sealed with packing tape (see photo).
Dogs, like people, may become accustomed to sounds, even annoying noises such as that of a shake can. Therefore, start out with just enough racket to get your dog’s attention. You can always add more sound later.
You will need your pet’s attention any time you want him to learn something new or respond to a command. If he is already responding, you won’t need to shake can. However, if he ignores you, rattle it lightly, just a single time, then begin your intended activity as soon as he is paying attention.
A shake can is also useful for misbehavior. Willie, like most puppies, explores his world with his mouth. That’s acceptable for a puppy playing with a peer, but biting one’s owner, even play-biting is unacceptable, and puppies must be taught good and bad behavior. Willie wants so much to play and he knows only one way. Sometimes he hears NOBITE and LEAVEIT so much that he fails to respond, and that is a good time to get his attention with a short shake of the can, accompanied by a LEAVEIT. As soon as he lets go he is rewarded with something appropriate to chew on, such as a rawhide stick.
As you can imagine, our house is covered with such goodies so that a reward is never far from reach.
Likewise, there are shake cans planted strategically around the house.
A shake can is even useful when improper behavior takes place across the room. For example, if your puppy is urinating in inappropriate places and voice commands are not making him stop his flow so he can be taken out, a shake of the can will usually do the trick at which point you can give him your usual command for exiting the home toward his outdoor bathroom area.
Praise him liberally when he “goes” outside, and a little treat reward upon returning indoors doesn’t hurt, either. Doing so reinforces that he did the right thing.
Use the shake can as a tool and it can be a great asset in the puppy training process. Start with short, gentle shakes, gradually increasing the sound level and/or the duration of the shake if he begins to become “immune” to the rattle.
See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.