If you know me, you know I love a good impulse control game! The cage game is fun to play to teach dogs to wait, rather than stealing things…especially off the coffee table. 

As a puppy, Salinger was tempted to grab my food off the coffee table, so I immediately started playing this game with him to teach him that he can share what I’m eating, but only if he’s polite. 

Now…some might say “Caryn, you’re reinforcing his begging!” and my response is “yes, but it’s polite, so what’s the problem?” I would much rather reinforce polite begging than to have a dog who steals food off the coffee table when I get up to get a drink. 

So, I play this game on the coffee table. You might play it on a stool or on the floor. Whatever you prefer! 

Step 1: Place a pile of low-to-medium value treats in a pile on your surface of choice. Make a cage with your fingers to protect the pile. If your dog tries to sneak into the cage with their face, the cage flattens to protect the pile before they go for it. 

No need to say “leave it” or any other cue. No need to use a verbal correction or squash their nose! Just protect the pile silently and let the consequence speak for itself. 

Step 2: When your dog has backed off for a split second (seriously!), take one treat from the pile and give it to them. You can feed away from the cage to buy you time to re-establish the cage before they catch on and come back to help themselves. 

Step 3: Repeat Step 2 until all the treats are gone.

In the beginning, you’ll have the cage, but you might graduate to resting your hand right beside the pile of treats as they’re fully exposed. Stay close! Dogs are opportunists and they WILL try. Your job is to set them up for success, not failure.