Stacking Rings is a difficult but rewarding challenge for your collie, and it’s impressive to see it in action. Collies are one of the few breeds that are smart enough to handle complicated tricks like stacking rings, and teaching them complex tricks like this is a great way to keep their minds stimulated.
You can teach your collie to stack rings by breaking the trick down into smaller steps, and by providing plenty of treats and praise every time there’s a little progress. Start by getting your collie to bring the ring back and lay it on the ground before working your way up to placing it in a certain spot and eventually placing it on the ring holder. Stacking rings requires a lot of patience and dedication across many short sessions and the name of the game is incremental progress.
It’s possible for collies to learn this trick at any age, but they will be more receptive to training when they are younger. Even if you can’t quite master this one, it’s still a fun activity for Collies and a great way to strengthen the bond with your dog.
In this article, we’re going to look at the methods used to teach your collie to stack rings and go over some tips and tricks to make the training go as smoothly as possible.
1: Break the trick down into different stages
When teaching your collie complex tricks like this, you need to break the trick down into multiple stages so it’s much easier for them to learn. Once they’ve mastered each individual goal you can move on to the next.
For ring-stacking, there are two separate methods for training, depending on what tricks they are good at already.
Method 1: The Target Method
This method of ring-stacking involves teaching your dog to touch the end of the stick with their nose, before introducing the rings later on. It’s a good option if your collie already knows ‘touch’ or ‘push’ commands commonly used in herding games.
- Touching the top of the stick with their nose
- Fetching and picking up a ring
- Taking the ring to the stick
- Putting the ring on the stick
- Introducing more rings
Method 2: The “Fetch” Method
The fetch method of ring-stacking is a good option if your collie can already fetch, but they don’t know any specific herding commands already. This method involves having your collie fetch the rings and you collect them with a stick, so your collie gradually learns to look for a stick to place the rings on.
- Throw the ring and have your dog fetch it
- Hold the stick in front of you and catch the ring on the stick instead of taking it with your hand
- When your dog starts to look for the stick, hold it a bit further away so they drop it on the stick
- Eventually, you can put the stick on the ground and your dog will place the ring on it
- Eventually, you can start adding more rings
This method is more intuitive for your collie since they will learn by doing and not by listening to specific commands. If you get stuck, just move back a step. It’s a tough challenge for your dog but collies love to learn.
2: Use Treats for Positive Reinforcement
It’s possible to teach them this trick without treats but you might find your Collie is more likely to become distracted. Using some delicious treats will encourage them to pay closer attention and help them learn faster.
Collies learn best by positive reinforcement of good behavior than negative reinforcement of bad behavior. If you praise your collie for doing something, they will learn that it’s something you like and keep doing it. The idea with treat reinforcement is that your collie will want another treat and try to imitate what they did before to earn it, cementing the trick in their mind.
As your collie succeeds with individual parts of the trick, offer them a treat. When they finally manage to stack the ring on the stick, get excited and give them plenty of praise and treats. Collies love to please and getting rewarded like this releases oxytocin in their brains, which is responsible for feelings of pride, happiness, and satisfaction. Your collie will very quickly learn what they are supposed to do and will enjoy the learning process.
Don’t ignore any accidental ring drops onto the stick! If that happens, act very excited and give them a treat before encouraging them to try again. You can also reinforce it by holding the ring just over the stick and encouraging them to hold it then drop it onto the stick before rewarding them with more treats.
3: Be Consistent with your Training and Commands
Whatever commands you decide to use for stacking the rings, keep it consistent to make it as easy as possible for your collie to learn.
If your collie already knows “fetch” and “drop it” you can incorporate these into the ring-stacking training, but it’s important to highlight the command you use to stack the rings too.
Pick a command that doesn’t sound like any other commands you use and always use the same command during training, so your collie associates the word with the correct action. If your command is ‘stack’, say the word “stack” out loud whenever they place the ring onto the stick.
4: Keep Training Sessions Short
Collies are intelligent and love to learn, but they can get frustrated easily if they aren’t making progress.
When you’re teaching your collie a difficult trick like ring-stacking, try to restrict training sessions to around ten or fifteen minutes at most depending on the attention span of your dog.
In some cases, you might be able to practice it a bit longer, especially with the fetch method since this can also be a fun play activity for your collie. (Collies love chasing and playing with toys)
Summary – Steps to Teach Your Collie to Stack Rings
Teaching your collie to stack rings is a difficult task, but as soon as they get the hang of it, it will be one of their favorite tricks!
Here are the step-by-step instructions to teach your collie the stacking rings game:
- Teach your collie the ‘touch’ command
- Get your collie to fetch their ring toys
- Combine the ‘Fetch’ and ‘Touch’ commands
- When your collie is touching the top of the peg, tell them to ‘drop it’
- Use a verbal command so that your collie associates the peg with the command
- Keep practicing, and reward your collie with treats for progress
- Practice often! Your collie will love this game once they understand it.