Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top Tips Tuesday: "Place"

Teaching your dog to settle in a spot that is out of the way is an invaluable skill.  It can help with all sorts of things.  Unpleasant behaviors such as crazy greetings or flipping out when the doorbell rings can be addressed using this skill.  On top of that, it is a great way to keep your dog out from underfoot when you are cooking or working on a project that they are bound and determined to "help" you complete. But how can you teach your bouncy pup to lay still in a particular place?

1) Determine where your pup's place will be
There are a number of ways to do this, but I prefer to use something portable.  Mainly because this allows me to create a "place" no matter where I am because where I put that object is where they need to park.  For this purpose you can use a number of things: yoga mat, towel, travel bed, bath mat, neoprene mat -- basically anything that your dog can lay on in comfort and is easy to transport.  If you choose not to have the place be portable, be sure to put some thought into your location choice.  You want to make sure it is in a safe place for the dog (not underfoot or in a traffic way) but in a location that is not removed from the rest of the activity.  On top of that, you need to be very clear in your own mind where your dog's place is.  If you are not precise, then your dog's placement will be sloppy and therefore, less effective in keeping your dog safely out of the way.

2) "Charge" the place
In other words, associate good things with their place.  Maybe that is the only place that they get to chew on a favorite chewy or cuddle with a favorite toy.  The important thing is that they are given or get to do something that they enjoy.  Some people like to used clickers and/or treats.  What is important is that going to their place means good things happen.  If you don't make being on their place fun, they will have no desire to go there.

3) NEVER use their place as a punishment!
This is one of the reasons you should not choose a location that is away from the rest of the family.  Dogs are social creatures so removing them from all of the activity works as a form of punishment.  On top of that, you want them to be excited about going to their place, not unhappy.  If you use their place as a punishment, you will find that your dog will resist going which makes this skill ineffective as a solution for unwanted behavior.

4) Reward baby steps
I think this should be on the tip list for EVERYTHING we teach our dogs!  Don't just reward perfection, especially during the learning process.  You may have to start of rewarding your dog for putting one foot on their place and gradually build up to standing with all four feet on the place.  Once you get them standing on their place consistently, then work on getting them to sit, then down, and finally stay for increasingly longer periods of time.  Remember, it will take several practice sessions in different locations to ensure that your dog has generalized any skill or behavior.  After all, going to their place at home while everyone is relaxing for the evening is VERY different than going to their place during a birthday party!