52 behaviors in 52 weeks !!

I spent some time this week trying to figure out how to be more consistent with a training blog and what would give my readers the most motivation to work with their own dogs and follow along with us each week.  After watching the movie Julie and Julia in which Julie blogs about cooking a different dish every night I thought why not do that with my blog.  So here goes…. 52 behaviors in 52 weeks has launched enjoy !!

This weeks behavior is Go To Your Bed. This is a really useful behavior to teach any dog and can be used at home and while visiting and traveling. A dog that has a Go to Your Bed cue can be part of the family festivities during holidays and visits from family and friends. This behavior can replace begging at the table, or door dashing when you have a delivery person at the door. You can use it to manage a dog that barks at people and dogs passing by the house to for a dog that begs from company. Teach your dog to be flexible about where it’s bed is and you’ll be able to have your dog use your coat or sweatshirt at a friends house or when you are on a picnic or at a barbecue. Imagine how much nicer it will be to enjoy having your dog with you when you have a behavior in place that ensures he will keep all the good dog manners you’ve taught him !

To start with the first goal is to build value for the bed or mat. Start by standing about a foot from the bed and wait for your dog to look at it, step toward it or sniff it. When he does click and toss the treat right on the mat. Repeat by clicking and treating any interest in the mat until your dog is repeatedly interacting with the mat. Withhold the click every once in a while until he puts more than just a paw on it or sniffs it. Wait for him to offer putting both front feet for instance or walking across it. As you build value for interacting with the mat your dog will want to get on the mat more often but it may be hard to tell after a while if he’s aware that he is getting rewarded for being on the mat all the way. To help him understand that he needs to put his whole body on the mat once he is hanging out on the mat more than not instead of tossing the treat on the mat click for him getting on the mat but toss the treat away so he has to get off the mat to get it. When he gets his treat be patient and wait, click any effort to get back on the mat on his own without prompting from you.

This is a tricky step for most dogs and some get stuck a bit. They might approach the mat but not get on. They might sniff it briefly and then walk away. Be patient, click any effort to interact with the mat and toss the treat on the mat again. This will jog the dog’s memory that the mat does indeed have value and it will pay to make an effort to get on it. If your dog stares at you don’t look directly at him but instead look at the mat and wait. Once your dog figures out this part he will be really enthusiastic about getting on the mat with his whole body and you will see him purposely put all four feet on it.

When your dog is convinced that the mat pays off when he puts all four feet on it, you can add in the down cue. If your dog doesn’t lie down on his own teach him to lie down separately before adding this step.  Instead of clicking when your dog gets all four feet on the mat, ask for “down” and when he complies click and treat him by handing the treat right to him. If he stays in position click and treat him every 2-3 seconds and then toss a treat away to restart the behavior again. When this step is complete the dog will see the mat, put all four feet on and then lie down. Once your dog gets this part you can rename the entire behavior chain “Go to Bed” as he is on his way to the mat. If he doesn’t immediately lie down wait 5 seconds and then give your down cue. Over time as he gets better at this you’ll be able to wait longer to help him and he’ll begin to guess that you are going to cue him to lie down and start offering it before you have a chance to ask him.  Later as he gets better at this you can send him from greater distances, change what you ask him to lie on and vary your position relative to his.

Once your teach this behavior and start using it to prevent begging at the table, running out the door, jumping on company, or managing your food delivery you are going to wonder how you ever lived without it. It’s such an easy behavior to teach with so many benefits you won’t know how you lived without it !

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