How to Teach Your Dog to Play the Shell Game

A dog looking at three cups set up for the shell game.

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Do you want to have some fun with your dog?

Teaching your dog how to play the shell game is a great way to keep them entertained and stimulated. It’s also a lot of fun for both of you!

By following these simple steps, you can teach your dog how to find a treat hidden beneath one of three overturned cups. When they win, they’ll be sure to love the tasty reward you give them!

Continue reading to learn how to teach your dog this simple game!

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What is the shell game?

The shell game is a type of con game where the player tries to guess which of three cups contains a ball or other object. The game is also known as three cups, the cup game, or the cup and ball game.

This easy guide will walk you through the steps of how to train your dog to find a treat hidden beneath one of three overturned cups.

The benefits of playing the shell game with your dog

Playing the shell game with your dog is a fun way to give your dog some mental stimulation and keep them entertained. It is also a great way to work on your dog’s impulse control.

Plus, your dog is sure to love the treat you give them when they win!

What supplies do you need for the shell game?

All you need for this fun game is three cups and some of your dog’s favorite treats. You can either use disposable paper or plastic cups, or reusable plastic cups. I don’t recommend using glass cups for this game.

How to teach your dog to play the shell game

By following these simple steps, you can easily teach your dog this new trick:

Teach your dog that cup equals treats

The first step to teaching your dog the shell game is to teach them that the cup means dog treats.

To do this, put a treat in a cup and set it in front of your dog. Then have your dog get the treat out of the cup. Do this a few times until your dog seems to understand that the cup has a treat in it.

Teach your dog to signal the cup

The next step is to teach your dog to signal that the cup has a treat under it. Some dogs will do this naturally, others need a little training.

Start by deciding whether you want your dog to paw the cup to knock it over, or push it with their nose. If you want your dog to paw the cup, I recommend not using disposable cups as they can be damaged quickly.

To teach your dog to paw the cup, start by placing a treat under the cup and then hold out your hand and give the cue to shake paw.

When your dog moves to shake, move your hand so they hit the cup. Reward them with a treat and lots of praise. If your dog doesn’t know shake paw, you may want to teach that first.

To teach your dog to push the cup with their nose, place a treat under the cup and encourage your dog to sniff the cup for the treat. While your dog is sniffing, they should accidentally touch the cup. Praise them when they do this and encourage them to do it again.

They should soon bump the cup enough to move it. When they do, give them the hidden treat.

Add a second cup without a treat

Once your dog is reliably signaling the cup with the treat, it’s time to add a second cup.

Start by placing two cups upside down next to each other. Then show your dog that you are placing a treat under one of them. Do not move the cups at this stage.

Have your dog signal which cup has the treat. If they signal the right cup, give them the treat.

Repeat this a few times by switching which cup has the treat without moving the cups after placing the treat.

Move the cups

Once your dog has reliably found the treat multiple times with the cups not moving, it’s time to learn the next step.

For this step, use two cups and show your dog that you placed a treat under one of them. Then move the cups.

The first move should be simple, so just swap which is right and left. Then have your dog signal which cup has the treat.

Once your dog is correct a few times in a row, you can swap the cups, left and right, right and left, a few times.

Finish the game

Once your dog is reliably getting the correct cup with only two cups, it’s time to finish the game.

Start slowly with the third cup. Move them around just a little at first. Once your dog has the hang of it, you can move the cups around more.

Tips for making the game more challenging

If your dog is finding the game too easy, you can make it more challenging by:

  • Moving the cups around more quickly
  • Using more than three cups
  • Placing treats under multiple cups
  • Making the game more difficult by only showing your dog which cup the treat is under for a split second before moving the cups

With a little practice, your dog will be a pro at the shell game in no time!

Variations on the basic shell game

Once your dog has mastered the basic shell game, you can try variations of the game to keep them challenged.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Use different shaped cups – such as cups and bowls
  • Use different sized cups – such as a large cup and a small saucer
  • Place the cups around the room
  • Place the cups in different rooms

Conclusion

Teaching your dog to play the shell game is a great way to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.

They will love being able to find the treat hidden beneath one of the overturned cups. With a little practice, your dog will be a pro at this game in no time!

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