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Imagine the scenario where you are balancing a baby on your hip and have a load of washing under the other arm. Then the doorbell rings and your dog launches himself at the door, barking fit to burst. You simply don't have a hand free to grasp the dog's collar to stop him running onto the road when you answer the door.
What's to be done?
Well, you can put the baby down, drop the washing, grab the dog and open the door OR you can tell the dog "Go Bed." Thankfully, he then trots happily to his bed and waits with a wagging tail while you let in the visitors.
How is this miracle achieved?
By teaching the simple "Go Bed" command.
The beauty of "Go Bed" is the dog takes himself there, which means you know where he is and have better control over his movements. This is not a hard command to teach, although it does take regular practice and plenty of patience.
The significant part of the "Go Bed" command is that the dog takes himself to a designated spot, rather than you having to take him there. There are different ways to teach this behavior, either starting at the end by teaching the dog to stay on the mat or alternatively by making the bed such an exciting place that the dog waits in eager anticipation of being sent there.
As with all training, never punish the dog if he seems slow to catch on. Punishment increases anxiety, making it more difficult to learn and damaging the bond between you. Instead, if the dog doesn't do as expected simply turn your back on him. This withdraws attention and avoids accidentally reinforcing bad behavior.
Start the training in a quiet, distraction-free room. Dogs learn best through regular repetition, so be prepared to train for a few minutes at intervals throughout the day. As he grasps the idea, vary where the training takes place in order to reinforce what's required of him.
You can start teaching a puppy to "Go Bed" from a young age, by making the mat an exciting place to visit. When the puppy links the bed to delicious treats, it will quickly become his default place to wait for good things to happen.
To train the dog you'll need:
- A mat or bed for the dog to lie on
- A bag on your belt to keep treats in
- Favorite toys (to place on the bed to make it more attractive)
- Time and patience
The Start at the End Method
Understand the idea
The aim is to start at the end by training the dog to lie on his mat. Once he under knows how to do this, you direct him to go the mat and reward him when he does as commanded.
Teach "Down" or "Stay"
It is helpful if the dog is familiar with staying in one spot. To do this, teach either the "Down" or "Stay" command as a general action you expect him to obey
Introduce the bed
Place the bed or mat in a convenient location where the dog is out of the main thoroughfare but can see what's going on around him.
Have the dog "Stay" on the bed
Practice the "Stay" with the dog sitting or lying on the bed. Introduce a specific cue command such as "Stay Bed", so the dog starts to link the action to the place. It's also helpful to introduce a hand cue, such as holding the palm towards the bed to indicate where he is to stay.
Reward moving toward the bed
Now try giving the "Stay Bed" command when the dog happens to be walking toward the bed. If he continues to the bed praise and reward him, and reinforce the action with your cue command "Go bed".
Entice him toward the bed
If he's a little slow understanding that he's required to move to the bed, place a treat on the mat when he's not looking. Then, give your cue command and gently lead him to the mat to discover the scrummy reward waiting for him.
Practice, practice, practice!
Keep treats in a bag on your belt. When the dog is in the same room as the bed, practice. Repeating the command several times a day is a highly effective way of getting him to learn.
The Toss and Reward Method
Understand the idea
By hiding treats on the mat, the dog is motivated to approach the bed for himself. You then label this action so that he associates going to the bed with a reward, and obeys willingly.
Make the bed interesting
Hide treats in the bed to make it an interesting place for the dog to investigate. When the dog pops over to check out if a new treat has appeared, he gets the self-reward of eating the treat. Pretty soon, he'll be going over regularly to check things out.
Label the action
As the dog wanders over to sniff for treat-treasure, say "Yes" in an excited voice and then label the action "Go Bed". The idea is to give the action a name so the dog understands what's required of him.
Toss a treat
Also, get the dog's attention and direct him to the bed. For example, toss a treat onto the mat and give the cue "Go Bed". As the dog heads for the mat, say "Yes" in an excited voice, to reinforce that he's doing the right thing.
Phase out the treats
Once you notice the dog starting to anticipate what's expected, you can delay giving him the treat. For example, when you say "Go bed" and he rushes over to sniff out the treat, don't always leave a treat on the mat. Instead, keep it in your hand and expect the dog to reach the mat and sit, before you walk over and reward him.
Make him wait
Once the dog is going to the mat on command in anticipation of a treat, make him wait for the reward. Pause for a second or two between him going to the mat and giving a reward. Gradually extend the gap so he learns to stay on the mat in anticipation of good things happening.
The Troubleshooting Method
When things go wrong
Sometimes things don't go smoothly and the dog plain doesn't do what you want. Never punish the dog. Remember, the most likely reason is he doesn't understand what he's being asked to do or he's bored. Instead, think through what the problem might be and take steps to make things clearer.
Signs of stress
If the dog freezes and refuses to comply, be alert for signs of stress. These indicate the dog is confused or conflicted, and you need to ease back in order to progress at a later date. Signs of stress include lip licking, stopping to scratch, or genital washing. If you see these signs, the dog feels under pressure, so takes things back a step or two and be sure to praise the dog when he gets a step right.
Bed is best
Training is a whole lot easier if the dog likes the mat or bed. Try feeding him on the mat so he links it to good things. Likewise, if he happens to lie on the bed, be sure to quietly praise him. This helps him understand that lying on the mat is a good thing.
Dog ignores the mat
Things were going well but have stalled. The dog had started walking toward the bed, but stops and ignores it. Sometimes familiarity is the problem, so try picking the bed up and putting it in a new location to make it more interesting.
Dog still ignores the mat
If relocating the mat doesn't do the trick, then be ready to reward any attention he does give the bed. For example, move the bed again and when he looks over at the bed say "Yes" in an excited voice, and reward him. This helps him understand nice things happen when the mat is concerned. Similarly, when he happens to stroll toward the bed, say "Yes" and reward him.
The simplest way to teach him is to make the mat irresistible. Place the bed in a corner of the kitchen. When you're preparing a meal, entice him onto the bed and feed him scraps when he stays there. Give all his meals on the bed, leave treats on it at random times, and be sure to actively praise him when he goes to bed.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 10/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021