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Granted, Standard Poodles have a cushion of hair on their heads which makes it easier for them than it would for a smooth-headed dog to balance a book on their head while walking; however, the first dog I saw doing this action was Ted Baer's Samoyed Tundra on The Love Boat. Also, Alex Rothacker's Sweet Pea, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, performed this action walking while balancing a half-full glass of water on her forehead between her eyes at the Miss American Dog pageant (which she won).
The most difficult part of teaching this action is probably getting the dog to walk with his head held high. When walking with something on their head, most dogs tend to stretch out their neck like a goose in flight.
Foundation behaviors the dog needs to know: Stand, Stay, and Come. Additionally, it is helpful, but not necessary, if the dog is familiar with targeting and the intermediate bridge.
Step 2: Holding her nose level, I briefly place the book on top of her head and, when she holds still, bridging ("Yes!") and treating her. I continue this until I can leave the book on her head and take my hand away for a few seconds. I then begin using an intermediate bridge to let her know she is doing the correct thing and to continue. Upon hearing the intermediate bridge, she understands that she is doing exactly what I want her to do in the position I want her to do it in. I give her a terminal bridge ("Yes!") and reinforce her with food.
Step 4: When I feel she is comfortable with the book on her head, I ask her to take one step forward. At this point, most dogs instinctively lower their head and stretch out their neck. As my dogs are taught to target with various parts of their body, I tap the front of her throat cueing her to lead with her throat while walking, which insures that her head will stay up - see photo opposite), and ask her to step forward to target my hand with her nose. If I have done my foundation work, she will be comfortable enough with the book on her head to step forward and touch the target. "Yes!" and treat.
Step 5: The rest is just an evolution of getting her to take more steps while holding her head in the correct position (gradually with me at progressively greater distances). After she is successful at taking one step, I use the intermediate bridge to encourage her to continue taking more steps.
Note: I make sure Sydney understands and correctly performs each step of the process before going on to the next one.
To make it easier for the dog, I glue a piece of felt to the bottom of whatever I'm asking him to balance (matching the color of the felt to the object). The dog still has to learn to balance the object while moving, but the felt gives the object more traction.
My training steps here are illustrated with Sydney who was introduced to this action about three years ago. These pictures show the first time she has done it since then.
Step 1: Putting Sydney in a stand/stay, I show her the book and let her examine it. I tell her,"I'm going to put this book on your head and I want you to leave it there." She may or may not understand my words, but by voicing my intent, my brain connection to my body makes my physical signals more readable for her.
Step 3: I have her stand still balancing the book on her head for longer and longer periods of time. When I'm sure she understands what I want her to do, I discontinue using the intermediate bridge but intermittently say “good” while she waits for the "Yes!" I continue this step until she will stand with the book balanced on her head for about ten seconds. "Yes!" and treat.
This would be considered an advanced action as the trainer needs awareness, patience, and good reinforcement timing.