Free-Form Cup Games

Now that your dog has the general idea of what we’re doing, it’s time to introduce them to cup games! We’ll start with free-form cup games. In free-form cup games the dog will learn that treats are under cups and that they can work with you to retrieve the treat. 

  • As before, the dog will be held by the handler, while the experimenter places one cup in front of themself and says “[Dog’s name], look!”, shows the treat, and then hides it under the cup. Make sure that your dog sees the treat go under the cup. You may have to get your dog’s attention a few times if they do not see it the first time.

  • As before, the experimenter can then release the dog using their release word, or “okay”, and the handler, if there is one, can then release the dog. 

  • If the dog doesn’t move within 3 seconds, the handler can nudge the dog (gentle, centered tap on the butt or shoulders). If there is no handler the experimenter can encourage the dog with an additional release command. Once the dog moves, the handler should not touch the dog until the end of trial when they are retrieving the dog. Further, if needed, the experimenter can tilt, lift, or tap cup to draw the dog's attention & encourage the dog, but they should not point to the cup. 

  • When the dog touches the cup (making a choice), the experimenter can take the cup away and the dog may eat the treat. Some dogs won’t touch the cup but will sniff it or stand near it, staring at the cup, or between the experimenter and the cup, for several seconds. These can be considered choices, too. Every dog’s response will be a little different, so we trust you to know when your dog has chosen a cup. Don’t lift the cup too quickly, though; if you aren’t sure, wait a few seconds to see what your dog does. 

  • Repeat this game a minimum of three times - more if the dog doesn’t interact with the cup. After the dog has successfully found the treat 3 times you may move on to the next game. If your dog needs more than 12 trials to find the treat, you may want to give your dog a break and come back to this later. We don’t want your dog to get frustrated -- this should be fun for you both!