This is an impressive trick that’s also useful, and is one that many service dogs are required to know. Teaching your dog to flip light-switches isn’t a particularly easy feat, and requires many training sessions. There are two parts to teaching your dog to turn a light on: you first need to teach him to flip on the switch, then you need to condition him to jump up to the light-switch plate. For the first part, you can use a prop switch to help your dog learn how to operate switches, and here’s how to do it.
For your dog to reach the light-switch in the first place, he will need to be big enough to jump up and touch it. A smaller dog still can do this trick, he’ll just need the assistance of a table to reach to switch. Here’s a video showing this trick in action:
First of all, you need to teach your dog to turn “on” the light. We found that this is best taught it parts: first the dog needs to be conditioned to flipping switches. Then, once he’s got that down, have him jump up to the light-switch on the wall to turn the light on (mission accomplished).
Okay, so we need to teach him to flip switches. What I did was build a fake light-switch so that I could place it down on his level. He needs to know how to operate the switch before having to worry about jumping up and flipping the switch. I went to Lowes and bought an inexpensive switch, and also an electric box. I nailed the electric box to a scrap 2×4 that was lying around my garage, and screwed in the switch. After scavenging around for a cover plate, I was all set. (For steps on teaching your dog to turn on and off a light, check out Trick #48 on our list of 52 Tricks to Teach Dogs).
Using the prop switch made it much easier for us to teach this trick, we were able to use it to condition the dog to operate the switch before trying to get him to jump up and turn on the actual light. Hopefully this technique will really help you out when you teach your dog this show-stopper trick!