This is one of my favourite exercises to teach, and by far the most useful on a daily basis.
A dog that understands to get on it's bed in the face of distractions, is a nice, easy dog to live with. By teaching our dogs this simple cue, we can reward them for doing what we want rather than berating them when they do things we'd rather they didn't!
I've planned that each monthly challenge will have 3 levels to it, so everyone can play along at their own pace.
New puppy or older dog with no training experience
Young or older dog with some training experience
Already knows the verbal cue, testing understanding and pushing the limits!
What you'll need:
Your dog's bed or a piece of dog bedding, plus a suitable size crate for some of the Advanced games
Training treats - see here for suggestions
Clicker (if you usually use one)
- Get everything you need together before bringing your dog over to your training area
- Make sure your training area is clear of any clutter that might distract your dog (e.g. food bowls, dog toys etc.)
- Put your dog onto a lead (1m length is ideal) so that you limit how far they can move away from you
- Depending on your dog's size, either settle down on the floor next to your dog's bed (small dogs) or stand up close by it (larger dogs)
- Watch your dog closely for any sign of them interacting with the bed - a glance, a look, sniffing, pawing at it etc.
- If using your clicker, click for those signs and reward - otherwise mark their movements with a happy 'Yay!' and reward close by where they interacted
- Once your dog has started to get all 4 feet into the bed, wait before rewarding until they offer another behaviour such as a Sit or Down
- Throw out a treat behind your dog's bed to get them to move away from you
- Whilst they do that, shuffle about a foot away from the bed - get your reward into them quickly whilst they're stepping into their bed back to you, but before they reach you
- Repeat this a few times until you feel sure that they are definitely choosing to get into the bed rather than just coming towards you for the food
- As they go towards their bed, name the behaviour they're performing with something like 'On your bed'
- Repeat the steps above, but start moving away from the bed a little earlier to make the game a little harder for your dog
- Once you are able to name the behaviour, make it a little more complex
- Start using a release word (a word that gives them permission to come off the bed)
- Reward with a toy (if you dog enjoys toys) instead of using food
- Try and distract them from staying on their bed - start with something your dog finds easy to ignore
- If you have two dogs, try asking one to stay on their bed whilst you do some training with the other one
- Try doing this at your dog's mealtime - can they move away from their meal in order to earn it?
- Test that you have the behaviour of your dog going onto their bed on verbal cue alone - e.g. not lured by body movements, food etc.
- Has your dog got more than one bed - can you give them different names and have your dog differentiate between multiple beds?
- Try sending your dog at their bed from various distances - do they move at the same speed from all distances?
- Can you send your dog to their bed even when it's in a different room?
- Play with your crate - can you send your dog into their crate when the entrance is covered by a pillow case or lightweight towel?
- Once you've sent your dog into their crate a couple of times, move it around so the entrance is not where it was - can they still get on their bed?
- If you shut your dog's crate door, can they figure out how to open it to get in?
As my instructors and I play these games with our own dogs I'm sure we are likely to come up with a few more for the Advanced section too! If your dog's create any new games of their own, please do share in the comments below!