The cup game is a simple way to introduce and improve a few of your dog’s skills. It helps them learn to wait for a reward, introduces scent work (where your dog uses their nose to find a treat) and teaches them to think about how they can get a treat from under the cup. Plus it’s really good fun!
With my little dog Kirk, I had to try a few techniques until he got the idea of how to play it, as to start off he didn’t understand how to play. But now he’s got the idea he loves it and we’ve worked out a few different variations which are perfect to keep him entertained on those rainy indoor days!
1. Teach your dog that cup = treats
This step isn’t needed for all dogs, but for Kirk it took him a while to figure out that he needed to get the treat from the cup (and not from my hand!). Start by putting a treat in the cup, once your dog starts to pay attention to the cup (sniffing it, putting their nose in it or tipping it over) give them the treat. If they manage to reach the treat by themselves then that’s great, but if they can’t quite figure it out (for example if they put their nose in but can’t reach the treat) it’s important to give the treat to them yourself so they don’t get frustrated.
2. Teach your dog to tip the cup
Once your dog has figured out that the cup can be a good source of treats, teach them how to tip the cup over. Most dogs will be able to do this using their foot or nose, but sometimes you’ll need to make it easier for them at the start so they get the hang of what they need to do (for example, holding the cup still while they tip it over so it doesn’t slide around).
3. Line up three cups and start to play
Start off by asking your dog to wait while you put a treat under one of the cups then tell them to find it. Once they’re confident, the next step is to start to swap the cups around. This means your dog can’t just watch and see which cup you put the treat under but needs to use their nose to sniff it out instead.
4. Come up with new ideas and ways to play!
Try hiding the cups round the house for your dog to find them, adding more cups to the line, hiding treats under more than one cup - as long as you and your dog are having fun, the possibilities are endless!