How to Train Your Dog to Push a Button

Hard
4-10 Weeks
Chores

Introduction

Teaching your dog to push a button can be beneficial in many ways. If you are training a service dog, a therapy dog, or just your family pet to help out around the house, pushing buttons is a chore you can give him that he can handle. Dogs can push buttons on elevators if you teach them how to do it. This is certainly beneficial if your hands are full. Dogs have been known to push buttons on telephones to speed dial. This can be beneficial if you have a medical condition and your family pet or service dog can help you call assistance. Dogs have even been taught to push buttons on remote controls. Once your dog knows how to use a remote control, you may give up all rights to TV watching or at least choosing the programs. But if you teach your dog to push buttons, he may also be able to open up window blinds or turn on ceiling fans using remote controls, and do other things around the house.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to push a button takes a lot of time and patience. Depending on the kind of button you would like your dog to push, it may take more or less time. Teaching your dog to push buttons will require repetitive training in very short sessions. You do not want to lose your dog's attention. You’ll want him to remain focused and learn during each session. Repetition is the biggest thing that will keep your dog in a constant state of understanding during these quick training sessions.  Be sure your dog has basic and advanced obedience training, such as heel, before you begin to teach your dog how to push a button. Because this is an advanced task, he will need to understand basic commands before you teach pushing buttons.

Getting Started

To get started teaching your dog to push buttons, have the buttons you would like pushed in mind and ready to go for each training session. For instance, if you are teaching your dog to close or open doors on an elevator or to push the button for your particular floor, your training sessions will probably need to take place in that elevator. High-value treats for teaching your dog to push buttons will be beneficial during the short training sessions. Entice your dog with treats that are different than the ones he gets for everyday good behavior and obedience.

The Repetition Method

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Step
1
Introduction
Show your dog the button you need him to learn to push. This can be in your home or out and about. Common buttons dogs push are on phones, remotes, crosswalks, medical devices, and elevators.
Step
2
Touch button
Take a treat and touch it to the button. Encourage your dog to sniff the button.
Step
3
Sniff button
When your dog shows interest in the button, give him a treat.
Step
4
Name button
Begin to give the button a name, like 'elevator', 'floor two', or 'crosswalk'.
Step
5
Repeat
Continue this process several times until your dog shows interest in the button when you say its name.
Step
6
Push button
Have your dog push the button with his nose or a paw once he's used to the name and associates the name with the acknowledgment of the button. You can help guide his paw or nose with a treat to get him to push or nudge the button. Be sure to remain gentle.
Step
7
Reward
Give your dog a treat each time he successfully pushes the button. Keep practicing with positive rewards for a job well done.
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The Target Method

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Step
1
Sit and face
Place your dog in a sit by command. Sit in front of your dog, facing him.
Step
2
Eye contact
Look into your dog's eyes to ensure you have his attention.
Step
3
Hide treat
Show your dog a high-value treat and let him see you hide it. You can hide it in your fist at first and move to more difficult places as he gets better at nudging.
Step
4
Nudge
Ask where the treat is and encourage your dog to nudge it while it is hidden. It may be helpful for the treat to be in your fist.
Step
5
Treat
Once he nudges the hiding spot for the treat, give him the treat.
Step
6
Offer your hand
Show your dog your empty hand after he's been used to finding and nudging treats. He will likely continue to nudge your hand, thinking you want this behavior to continue. When he does, offer him a treat.
Step
7
Move hand
Move your hand around encouraging him to nudge your hand. Move it from left and then to right giving him a treat each time he nudges it.
Step
8
Challenge
Move your dog to varying areas and encourage him to nudge from a distance. Use your hand to direct him to objects he can nudge, like buttons.
Step
9
Practice
Encourage and practice your dog to nudge items and buttons. This will take some time, but once he gets the nudging idea down, he should be able to push buttons with his nose.
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The Push and Click Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Introduce button
Introduce the button you'd like your dog to push and give it a name.
Step
2
Clicker hand
Bring your clicker hand to the button. Your dog will want to sniff your hand. Once he moves his head and touches your hand with his nose, click and treat.
Step
3
Move elsewhere
Move your clicker hand to a different spot or another button.
Step
4
Click and treat
Offer your dog a click and treat when he touches your clicker hand near the button with his nose.
Step
5
Repeat
Continue to repeat and practice this with different buttons using your clicker hand.
Step
6
Name button
Once your dog follows the motion to the button and can nose the button, give it a name such as 'phone', 'remote', 'crosswalk'. Repeat the steps above using the name.
Step
7
Practice more
This will take some time, but your dog will begin to push the buttons you have named after learning to associate the name with the clicking and treating while your hand is near the button and he acknowledges the button.
Step
8
Positive rewards
Be sure to offer your dog treats and keep the training repetitive so he connects the complicated dots as he learns to push buttons.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 10/18/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Kenobi
Labrador Retriever
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Kenobi
Labrador Retriever
4 Years

My dog 'works' with me in a primary school offering emotional support to some of our more challenging pupils or those who lack self-esteem. She has good recall and obeys all common commands, such as sit, down, paw, hi-5, roll over, up, jump and speak.
I am now trying to train her to open the door for pupils on arrival by pushing a button mounted on the wall. This is a large button which she could easily strike with her paws with enough force to operate it and open the automated doors. I just can't seem to get her to engage in the touch training I have been trying. Any ideas?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Claire, Is the bottom something pup could also push with her nose? Is so, I would try putting a small amount of liver paste or soft cheese on the button to get pup to push it, pointing at the smear of food on the button, then rewarding with additional treats when pup touches it hard enough to open the doors. Once pup will eagerly touch it in anticipation of the treat smear, then just point to the button without the smear and give the treat after. If pup can't push with their nose, then I suggest teaching Paw, then placing your hand on the button once pup is trained to put their paw in your hand, then moving your hand away after pup associates hitting the button behind your hand with the reward also. I suggest a different approach. With pup sitting in front of you, tap the back of pup's front paw until they light it slightly off the ground, while happily saying "Paw or Shake". As soon as they move it at all, praise enthusiastically and reward with a treat. Repeat this until pup starts to lift the paw all the way off the ground - then reward. When pup is lifting the paw up, require pup to lift it higher before rewarding with a treat. Continue to praise for attempts though. When pup will lift the paw a couple of inches off the ground when you tap and say shake, start to tell pup to Shake, then wait seven seconds, then tap to remind pup if they don't lift on their own. Do this until pup starts to lift the paw consistently without needing the tap a few seconds later. When pup can lift when you say paw, place your hand under their paw when they lift it, praise and reward right when their paw touches your hand - even though you caused it to. Repeat. Next, place your hand slightly below where pup's lifted paw is, wait until pup lowers their paw a bit - accidentally touching your hand on their own (by accident on their part at first), as soon as pup touches your hand on their own because your hand was under the paw, praise and reward. Repeat until pup starts to intentionally touch your hand because they are associating it with the treat being given. When pup starts to understand that touching your hand is what earns them the treat, wait until pup puts their paw all the way into your hand, rather than just touching it slightly, before you reward. Practice this often for lots of short training sessions frequently, rather than fewer long ones to help pup focus and not get as distracted during training.Expect this to take several days or weeks to teach, not just one or two sessions. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Adam
boxer with a mix
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Adam
boxer with a mix
3 Years

he is a rescue dog He doesn't know how to act with other dogs. How do you teach him to be social with other dogs

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Robert, Is Adam aggressive with other dogs, reserved, overly excited, or acting another way around other dogs. If pup is aggressive or reactive, I would see if there is a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area you can attend with pup. If pup is shy, you can work on gradually increasing his confidence around other dogs through counter conditioning, and calm activities with others, like structured heeling dog walks or hikes where everyone is on leash at first, or a class, where pup can get used to being in the presence of other dogs without direct confrontation. Check out the article I have linked below on shyness. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Check out Kikopup on youtube to learn more about counter conditioning and addressing fearfulness. For aggression, I don't recommend the tips on shyness or counter conditioning a fear response alone. I would look for a class that's specific to aggression and reactivity or work one-on-one with a training group that has a lot of experience with those behaviors and comes well recommended for their work with aggression, who can help you counter condition and practice obedience commands and structure around other dogs with safety measures in place to avoid a bite or redirected bite toward you. Aggression work should be practiced with more safety measures in place and carefully, to avoid injury to anyone or the behavior getting worse. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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