One of the most useful behaviours you can teach your dog in the house is to goto and stay in their bed /mat or crate with a verbal cue and release.
This has no end of uses and you will never be sorry you trained this. I have a large mattress type dog bed in the corner of the kitchen so if I’m cooking the dogs have their ‘place’ to be rather than under my feet. You can use the same behaviour to have your meals in peace – have your dog goto and stay on the bed rather than beg at the table. You can ask them to goto bed when someone rings the doorbell – having a mat near the door so they can see who it is good. If you have more than one dog you can be training one dog while the others stay on their mat and wait their turn.
Sometimes new people ask me why we have the dogs climb onto and sit on the ‘place boards’ in class (the low wooden boxes with astroturf on top) and the other obstacles like the balance pods and black steps. The answer is to develop the foundation behaviour of following your hand signal to goto a specific place and stay there. When you start this training it really helps to have something that’s raised as it forms an obvious platform / boundary for the dog but you can also do the same training at home with a dog bed or mat / towel.
Here is a step by step guide to everything you need to know about training your dog to goto a specific ‘place’ and to stay there until you give them permission to break the stay (called a ‘release cue’). Build your own ‘place board’, find a new OBSTACLE or buy a new mat and have a go!
1. Introducing your dog to the ‘PLACE’
The first step to training your dog is to get him to jump up onto the OBSTACLE. There are many methods to doing this. If your dog is fearful of new things you may need to go very slowly and reward your dog just for looking at the OBSTACLE. On the other hand you may happen to have a dog that offers the behaviour of jumping onto the OBSTACLE with minimal or no prompting. Either way, mark and reward any attempts to put paws on the OBSTACLE.
If your dog doesn’t offer jumping onto the OBSTACLE use a food lure.
2. Adding a Sit / Down
When we ask our dog to get on the OBSTACLE, we will want them to perform a stationary behaviour while they are on it. You can choose to have your dog sit or down. Follow these steps:
3. Adding the “PLACE” verbal cue
When your dog is comfortable jumping on and off the OBSTACLE, and you are able to get him to jump onto the OBSTACLE with a simple gesture instead of a lure, you are ready to add a verbal cue.
TOP TIP: The key here is to wait a second after saying the new verbal cue so that your dog can make the association between the spoken word and what follows. If you gesture at the same time as using the new cue word your dog will be too busy watching your hand and will likely never learn to follow the verbal cue on its own. (This is probably the most common dog training mistake I see people make in class).
4. Adding a Release Cue
Eventually we will want our dog to stay on the OBSTACLE until we give him permission to get off. To do this, we will add a release cue. Some examples of a release cue are “Release,” “Break,” “Free,” or “All done.”
5. Adding the Three Ds
We want our dogs to be able to stay on the OBSTACLE for as long as we ask them to no matter how far away the handler walks, and no matter the number of distractions that appear. We will build up the following areas slowly over time: distance, duration, and distractions.
Distance – How far the handler can be away from the dog.
Duration – How long the dog will stay on the OBSTACLE.
Distractions – How successful the dog is at remaining on the OBSTACLE in the presence of distractions.
Reminder: Push-Drop-Stick Rule
Remember that as we increase our criteria for what our dogs have to do in order to earn a treat, we need to remember the Push-Drop-Stick rule. If our dog is successful 5/5 trials, we can move up in our criteria. If our dog is successful 3-4 out of 5 trials, we will stick to the same criteria. If our dog is successful less than 3/5 trials we should drop our criteria down to a lower level to make the exercise easier for the dog to succeed.
We want our dogs to maintain their position on the OBSTACLE for a duration of time. We may want them to rest on their OBSTACLE while we eat dinner, visit with friends, or train another dog. To be able to do this, we need to build the duration our dogs will stay on their OBSTACLE.
We want to be able to move freely around our dog while they are on their OBSTACLE. We may want them to rest on their OBSTACLE 10 feet away from us while we cook dinner, or watch television. To be able to do this, we need to be able to move away from our dog.
Eventually we want our dogs to be able to maintain their position on the OBSTACLE no matter what the distraction may be. It is important that the distractions are easy to manage and control in order to “proof” the behaviour. Start with simple distractions, and then build up to higher level distractions. Remember to increase your criteria slowly over time. Here we will discuss an example using a toy.
Remember that consistency is the key with dog training. If you are not training or maintaining a behaviour, you will lose it. Keep your training sessions short and fun! Our dogs are our partners, it is our job to make performing acceptable behaviours reinforcing!
Have fun, keep training and see you soon :-) xx