How to Train Your Dog to Use a Bailey Chair

How to Train Your Dog to Use a Bailey Chair
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon7-14 Days
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

Your dog has difficulty keeping meals down. His appetite is great, he eats well, but seconds later he puts his head down to sniff something on the floor, and the meal makes a reappearance. This keeps happening and now the problem is so bad that the dog is losing weight and looking thin. 

As a responsible owner, you the dog to the vet. They say it sounds like the dog is regurgitating his food, rather than vomiting. After some blood tests and x-rays, it transpires the dog has a condition called megaoesophagus. 

This condition means your dog's gullet (the tube down which food passes from the mouth to the stomach) doesn't push food down into the stomach. The end result is when he puts his head down, the food literally tumbles out again under gravity. 

The answer is for your dog to sit upright for 20 - 30 minutes after eating. That's all very well but it's mighty time-consuming to sit with the dog for over an hour a day, just holding him upright.  In this scenario, a Bailey chair could be just the piece of equipment you need. 

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Defining Tasks

A Bailey chair isn't so much a chair, as a tall thin box which the dog enters to sit supported in an upright position. The front is hinged to form a door and with this closed, the dog has no option but to adopt an upright posture with his paws hooked over the top ledge of the door. A latch keeps the door closed, meaning the dog is confined within the Bailey chair, in the correct position to digest his food. This allows the owner to go about other tasks in the same room, safe in the knowledge that the dog is safely processing his meal. 

However,  man-handling a dog, especially a large one, into the chair is a task and a half. Better by far is to have the dog reverse himself in willingly, in the happy anticipation of a full stomach. 

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Getting Started

You will need:

  •  A Bailey chair
  • Toys or treats with which to encourage the dog
  • A pair of chairs that are the same height

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The Basic Rewards Method

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Understand the idea

You will use praise in order for the dog to associate the Bailey chair with good things. This is best done slowly so that the dog feels comfortable before you move onto the next step. Then the dog will happily enter the chair on his own, and wait for the time he needs to stay upright.

2

Introduce the dog to the chair

Let the dog sniff around and investigate the new object in the room. Praise his boldness when he approaches it, and give fuss and pats as he explores. Your aim is to start building positive links with the chair, so the dog doesn't feel fearful of it.

3

Lure the dog into the chair

Use a favorite toy or praise to lure the dog into the chair, but be sure to leave the door open. Make a game out of it by raising the dog's front legs so he's in an upright sitting position, such as you use to feed him. Praise him, and lower him down. You may wish to give him a treat while in the upright position, and then keep him upright for a short time.

4

Close the door

Once the dog is happy to visit the chair and sit upright (supported by you) then close the door. Give the dog lots of praise and keep his attention. After a few seconds, open the door and let the dog out. Gradually increase the amount of time the dog spends in place, before you open the door.

5

Feed the dog in the chair

Once the dog is happy and relaxed in the chair, try feeding a small meal. The dog needs to stay upright after eating, so start with a small meal so that he doesn't need to stay overly long in the new chair. If the dog becomes distressed, be prepared to release him but then support him in an appropriate position. As the dog becomes confident in the new procedure, you can start to feed full meals in the chair.

The Advanced Method

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Understand the idea

If you have a large dog such as a German shepherd, it's super helpful if the dog happily takes himself into the Bailey chair on command, and sits upright. This can save your back a lot of strain! This is done by raising the Bailey chair up off the floor, on two chairs, which teaches the dog to accurately reverse into the Bailey chair, rather than wobble off to either side.

2

Place the chairs end-to-end

Place the chairs end to end, facing each other. The chairs should form an 'H' shape when viewed from the side. Now place the Bailey chair on one chair, with the back hard up against the chair back.

3

Encourage the dog to jump onto the chair

Encourage the dog to jump up onto the empty chair, then praise him. If your dog is familiar with the 'up' command, this is helpful.

4

Reverse the dog into the chair

If the dog is allowed treats, you can lure him with a morsel of a tasty treat. Place the treat near his nose and then move it such that the dog's rear points toward the Bailey chair. Press the treat into his brisket so that the dog steps backward to get to the treat. As he backs into the chair, use a cue word such as "chair"

5

Place the dog in feeding position

Now lure the dog into an upright 'begging' posture and close the door. Give him lots of praise, and a small amount of food. Praise him for being calm. Stay beside him to reward him with praise, then once he's calm, let him out. Gradually extend the amount of time he spends in the closed chair, and start feeding his meals there. The food will also act as a powerful reward to reinforce his training.

The What NOT to Do Method

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Don't do too much too soon

Don't force the dog into the Bailey chair, feed his meal, and then refuse to let him out until all the food has gone down. The dog risks feeling imprisoned and will then resent the chair, which will make him unwilling to enter. It is better to take things in small stages, moving forward at the dog's pace.

2

Never punish the dog while in the chair

Should the dog misbehave while in the chair, do not punish him. To do so risks the dog linking the Bailey chair to punishment, which again will make him reluctant to enter in future.

3

Don't expect the dog to learn overnight

Some dogs adapt quickly to using the Bailey chair. However, plan to continue feeding the dog with the method that you've been using to date, until he is happy in the chair.

4

Don't let the dog out when crying

Try to avoid letting the dog out of the Bailey chair while he is whining. To do so would reward the crying with freedom, which teaches him that whining works. Instead, wait for a brief pause between cries and then release him (if he's distressed) in the same way you would with crate training.

5

Don't leave the dog unattended

Avoid leaving the dog unattended in the Bailey chair. Should he panic, he could injure himself trying to escape.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 11/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Cooper

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Labrador Retriever

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1 Year

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Our dog has megaesophagus - we have been using a bailey chair for approx 4 months without issue. All of a sudden, he is refusing to use the bailey chair and we cannot figure out why. We have tried reinstituting the steps we used to initially train him to use the chair, but they are not working. Do you have any suggestions on how to reintroduce use of the chair if they have a negative view of it? We are so concerned b/c he has to use it. It is so hard. Thank you.

July 14, 2020

Cooper's Owner

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Lana

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Great Dane

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2 Years

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We have been successful in getting Lana into the Bailey chair. She loves to get the treats we are giving her at this point. The problem is when she is done eating the treats she refuses to stay seated in the chair and trys to stand up and then gets panicked. Lana is a very hyper dog by nature and rarely sits still in general.

Jan. 12, 2020

Lana's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Start creating a stay for the chair. Gradually work up to spacing your treats out so that she is waiting longer and longer between rewards - staying for a few seconds longer before getting another reward, then working up to minutes, then several minutes. Add a word to the training like wait or Stay so that you can use that word to remind her to stay in the chair when she gets antsy. Even though there will be the longest period of time waiting in the chair at the end of the session, you want to practice working up to that amount of time in general so that when she is required to stay longer she has the skills and obedience too and knows the stay word. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 14, 2020


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