Friday, January 17, 2014

Training Isaac to Help Me Carry in Groceries

Someone suggested to me that I should train Isaac to help me carry in groceries.  He should be able to carry a plastic shopping bag with up to three pounds of groceries in it.  Much of the time, I don't really need his help carrying in groceries.  If I only have a bag or two, I can carry them.  If I have a lot of groceries, there is a cart that is kept in the lobby of my building that tenants can use to bring items in.  However, sometimes I have more stuff than I can easily carry myself but not so much that I want to mess with getting the cart.  At those times, it would be great if Isaac could carry a shopping bag.  Even if he carried my purse, that would help.  Plus it's fun to teach Isaac things and Isaac likes learning and likes doing jobs.

I thought this would be a pretty simple thing to teach Isaac, and I still think so, although I've realized it's a bit more involved than I thought it would be.

A couple days ago, I picked up a few things at the dollar store.  I had a gallon of milk and two plastic shopping bags.  Before getting out of my car, I rearranged the items in the shopping bags so that one bag only had a couple things in it and was pretty light.  Then I tied the handles of the bag together so stuff wouldn't fall out and there would be a big knot for Isaac to easily hold on it.

I got out of the car and Isaac got out of the car and I attempted to hand him the shopping bag I meant for him to carry.  He was baffled.  He picks up all sorts of items and gives them to me, including plastic shopping bags if I drop one on the ground or something, but I do not usually give those items to him.  I give him other items, like toys, but not shopping bags.  He didn't understand what I wanted him to do.

I ended up putting the bag on the ground and telling him to "Get it."  I think he was relieved to be asked to do something he understood and he picked it up very fast, with great enthusiasm.  So much enthusiasm, in fact, that he then shook it ferociously.  Which caused the bag to rip and the items in it to fall out on the ground.  Sigh.

This is one of those things that I know Isaac is capable of doing but I need to figure out how to explain to him what it is I want him to do.

So I carried in all the groceries myself that day.

I decided Isaac needed to learn a command that would tell him to take whatever I was giving to him.  So every time he brought me his pickle, I stuffed a small treat in one of the grooves and handed it back to him, saying, "Take it."  I said, "Take it, " every time I gave him a toy or a treat.  I did that all day yesterday and all day today and this evening I held out my hat to him and said, "Take it," and he did.  I praised him enthusiastically and that got him all excited so he dropped the hat, but then he picked it up for me.

I also decided to have him start practicing carrying things.  When he retrieves things for me, he sometimes carries them a little way.  For instance, he gets my medication and will bring it to me anywhere in the apartment, so sometimes he carries that from one room to another.  With most things, though, he just picks them up and gives them to me right away. 

There have been a few occasions, though, when he's carried something kind of a long way.  A couple of times when I've been taking him outside for a walk, he's had a toy in his mouth and didn't want to put it down, so I let him take it outside with him.  And he carried that quite a while.  He has also been known to pick up discarded bags from fast food restaurants that he finds beside the road on walks and carry those quite a while.  So he's not opposed to carrying things.  He just doesn't do it very often.

So starting yesterday, I started having him carry things from the elevator down the hall to our apartment.  I wasn't asking him to take things from me yet, so I dropped whatever I wanted him to carry on the floor and told him to "get it."  Then, when he picked it up, instead of taking it for him I told him "Carry it."  He carried my hat several times and carried a piece of mail once.

Tomorrow I'm going to try giving him a grocery bag with something light in it.  I'll hold it out to him and tell him to "take it," then reward him.  After he does that a few times, I'll have him carry it across the room.  Once he's doing that well, I'll have him carry the grocery bag from the elevator to our apartment.  Then we'll move on to carrying it from the lobby, up in the elevator, and to the apartment.  In a few days, we should be ready to carry a bag in from the car.


  1. How about using a cloth grocery bag? You could give him one special one and have him carry it around the house with a toy in it, or a treat. That should be easier for him to keep all the items inside it and the plastic won't tear from his teeth.

    You could also pick up a set of panniers and just ask the cashier to load certain items into the panniers, they are often cloth. That would be really easy for him to get used to carrying things plus he's used to wearing his vest so should quickly learn to accept wearing them.

    1. You're right, a cloth bag would probably be easier. Maybe we'll start with that. I used to take cloth bags with me to the store, but I don't do that often anymore because I use the plastic bags to pick up dog poop. It turns out I have to pick up dog poop more in the winter because in warm weather, Isaac usually poops when we go for walks, and if he poops in a ditch full of weeds beside the road, I don't pick it up. When it's cold and snowy, though, we don't go for walks as much and I have to pick up after him. Anyway. Maybe we'll start with a cloth bag but I also want him to be able to carry a plastic bag because sometimes I may not have a cloth bag handy.