I came across this game recently and have been working with it to help my dogs relax when being handled, which is what the game was originally intended for. Watch this introductory video by Chirag Patel.
I subsequently discovered that there is another way to use the bucket game. My dog Dash is very reactive when strange dogs come up to my vehicle. She customarily sits in the passenger seat of my car when I visit clients but because she gets so anxious and noisy when my clients’ dogs approach the car, I either leave my car outside the premises or leave Dash at home.
So this is where the bucket game comes in. I discovered that if I had the bucket of treats on the dash board of the car as I approached the problem area she would be so focussed on the bucket that she did not seem to notice the dogs approaching the car. I immediately gave her one of the treats in the bucket. We continued to drive into the property – in silence! I kept on giving her treats which helped her maintain focus on the bucket. As we progressed along the driveway of this particular house, I slowed down my rate of reinforcement until we reached our destination and I could get out of my car leaving a quiet and quite relaxed Dash to wait for my return.
I repeated the process on my way out and in future when I am visiting homes where dogs meet me at the gate, the trusty bucket is ready.
Note: These particular dogs were quiet and well-behaved around my vehicle so I’m not sure how self-contained Dash will be if they were to jump up and bark. I suspect that the bucket would not be much good in this case. But… this has now become another tool in my toolbox for working with reactive dogs in distracting situations where I have a measure of control over the triggers.