How to Train Your Dog to Go to a Mark

Medium
2-3 Weeks
General

Introduction

Need an inventive way to control your dog's behavior? Does your dog freak out and lunge at the door when the doorbell rings, or constantly beg and bother you while you are eating? Maybe you want him to be a movie star and need to be able to direct him so he can play a role. Imagine when your dog starts to become overexcited you can tell him 'go to your mat', and instead of jumping around and winding between your legs, he goes and sits quietly on his mat! Perfect!  Or, perhaps you want to put on a show using your dog's talents for friends and family, or use your dog as an extra in a film production. Teaching your dog to go to a mark can make your dog an appropriate part of a scene, or allow a photo to be taken of him, or can place him for maximum impact when he performs a trick or stunt. By teaching your dog to go to a mark, or a designated place, you can provide an alternative behavior to replace unwanted behaviors, or set your dog up to perform a stunt, trick, or be a star!

Defining Tasks

Your dog can be trained to go to a mark, which might be an X marked on the floor with tape, a place board, a piece of cardboard, a piece of cloth, or a mat or bed. These marks can be used at a specific location in your home to provide a place for your dog to go when you need to control unwanted behavior, or can be transported and used in a many different places if you need to take your dog out in public or to work, to direct your dog to an appropriate place where he is safe and not causing a problem. Dogs that are used in showbiz are often trained to go to a mark so they are in the appropriate spot for filming or to perform a trick or stunt. 

To teach your dog to go to a mark, you want to teach your dog to target a particular item, such as an X or a cloth or mat, and go to that spot and wait. You will want to teach your dog Down/Stay or Sit/Stay prior to teaching him to go to a mark, so that when your dog targets his mark he knows what behaviors to perform there. This behavior requires a little bit of direction and training to get your dog to understand and perform, however, even young dogs can learn to go to a mark. When working with a young dog, you should keep training sessions an appropriate length and do not require the dog to stay too long at the mark, as a young dog has a limited attention span and setting unrealistic expectations will cause frustration.

Getting Started

You will need to determine what your dog's mark will be. If this behavior is something you want your dog to be able to perform in a variety of places, you will need something portable. At home, you may use a dog bed as a mark, or a small mat can be used at home or taken with you on the road. Showbiz dogs often use an X created with painter's or masking tape on the floor as a mark. You can use anything, even a rag or facecloth to create a mark, as long as you're consistent. Determine what behavior you want your dog to perform at his mark prior to training, do you want him to sit down or lie down?  Teach your dog sit and lay down prior to teaching your dog to go to his mark so you don't overwhelm him. Come up with a command such as 'mat', 'place', or 'mark', which you will use to direct your dog to his mark. You will need lots of treats and a clicker to capture and reward the behavior during training. Some trainers use a training stick to direct their dog to their mark.  This is especially useful if the location of their mark is going to move, such as for performances.

The Direct Method

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Step
1
Introduce stick
Present your dog with a training stick you will use to direct them to their mark.
Step
2
Reinforce stick
When your dog touches the stick with his nose or paw, click and treat.
Step
3
Create mark
Create a mark with tape on the floor, usually an X.
Step
4
Reinforce mark
Stand next to the marker, and point the stick at the X. When the dog steps on the X, click and treat. Repeat.
Step
5
Reinforce 'go to mark'
Step a few feet away, repeat point at the mark, and when your dog goes to the mark, click and treat.
Step
6
Increase distance
Practice increasing distance from the X.
Step
7
Add behavior
Add the command for any behavior you want your dog to perform at the spot, sit/stay down/stay or a trick. Click and reward.
Step
8
Reinforce behavior
Direct your dog to mark. When he performs behavior, click and treat
Step
9
Remove click
Remove click, direct to mark, reward.
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The Capture and Shape Method

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Step
1
Provide mat
Drop a mat or blanket on the floor in front of your dog to get his attention.
Step
2
Reinforce touch mat
When your dog comes to investigate and touches the mat with his paw, click and treat.
Step
3
Reinforce step on mat
Your dog will continue to look for a reward. When he steps onto the mat, click and reward, repeat. Pretty soon, the dog will understand that when he touches the mat he gets reinforced and rewarded.
Step
4
Reinforce all feet on mat
In order to get rewarded, wait for your dog to put 2 feet on the mat, then 3 or 4. Eventually require all four feet on the mat before you click and treat.
Step
5
Add behavior
Add the command to sit or lie down when he steps on the mat with all 4 feet. Click and treat.
Step
6
Add mark command
Add the command 'place', 'mark', or 'mat' when he steps on the mat and sits or lies down.
Step
7
Increase distance
Move the mat further away. Give the command for mark, click and reward when your dog runs over to his mark and sits or lies down.
Step
8
Add release command
Require your dog to stay in place before getting his reward for a short period of time, then give him a command to release him and give him his treat.
Step
9
Increase time
Gradually extend the length of time your dog is required to stay at his mark until he is remaining at his mark until released.
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The Lure and Reward Method

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Step
1
Lure to mat
Place a mark or mat directly in front of your dog. Command your dog “mat”, “mark” or “place” as you step onto his mark or mat and use a treat to lure your dog to the mat.
Step
2
Reward on mat
When your dog steps onto the mat with you, say "yes" and provide the treat.
Step
3
Add behavior
Say "down" or "sit". When your dog responds, provide another treat.
Step
4
Increase distance
Move the mat further away, a few steps, and repeat having your dog come further to the mat. Lure and reward.
Step
5
Toss treat for lure
Toss the treat onto the mat from a distance and give your dog the command to go to his mark. When he gets to his mat for the treat, command 'sit' and toss another treat to him.
Step
6
Direct to mat with command
Command your dog to go to his mat. When your dog goes to the mat and sits or lies down, reward with a treat.
Step
7
Add stay and release
Add the command 'stay'. Reward your dog only when he goes to his mat, sits or lies, and stays. Start with a short period of time, then provide a command to release the dog, call your dog over to you, and give him a treat.
Step
8
Increase difficulty
Increase length of stay and add distractions. Require your dog to go his mark and stay until released before receiving his reward.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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