Teach Your Dog to Turn Lights On and Off

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Teach Your Dog to Turn Lights On and Off

By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet health insurance agency.

No one likes having a high utility bill. Perhaps you are getting tired of nagging your spouse and family members to turn off the light switch when they leave a room. Solution: solicit the aid of your happy-to-help dog.

Your dog will need to have learned “touch it,” “leap up” and “watch me” cues before learning this trick. Also, this trick applies only for the wall light switches with toggles or flips to turn on and off. Do not attempt to teach your dog to turn off a lamp with a cord that is situated on a table. You risk breaking the lamp and the pieces of the broken light bulb can cut your dog’s paws and cause bleeding.


Here’s your step-by-step guide to helping your dog master this cool feat.

1. Stand next to a light switch that is easy for your dog to reach. Call your dog and put him in a sit.

2. Hold a treat on the wall just an inch above the light switch. Tap it a few times against the wall as you encourage your dog to leap up with his front paws near the treat. Give him the treat and praise.

3. Repeat the above step a few times so your dog gets use to leaping up and touching the wall with his front paws.

4. Now tap the light switch with one hand as you hold the treat in your closed hand just above the light switch. Say, “get the lights!” when his paw touches the light switch. Praise and treat. You are transitioning to teach your dog to paw the light switch in order to access the treat in your other hand.

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5. Once your dog is consistently pawing the light switch, put your hand down at your side that contains the treat. Tap the light switch, say “get the lights!” and reward only when your dog paws the light switch and then sits down.

6. Gradually move farther from the light switch and motion your dog toward it and say “get the lights!” to complete the training of this illuminating trick.

Note: This trick is best suited for medium to large dogs who are comfortable leaping up and balancing their weights on their hind feet. However, if you have an eager-to-work small dog, you can train him or her to jump up on a solid box or ottoman placed against the wall and just under the light switch you wish him to paw to turn on or off.


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