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Psst Are you a brand, artist, shelter, or dog looking to get on Dogly?
Well, that's essentially what teaching your dog "go to bed" (or mat or even a carpet square) is all about.
To teach your pup this super versatile dog behavior, we'll start training by using shaping. Shaping means that you're going to capture your dog's "good" behaviors and then gradually shape them into more complex or specific behaviors, like being in a place.
Dog shaping is a dog training technique that uses small baby steps to teach a new behavior without prompting or correcting. It's sometimes called "free shaping" because of the natural, collaborative effort between you and your dog. Shaping is a powerful training tool in dog training you can use to help your dog learn just about anything.
As you train in tandem with your dog, you're shaping success. Every positive trainer will confirm the added bonus for both of you - it's so much fun strengthening your unspoken communications together in the process!
To start your shaping session, have an idea in your head of what the "finished" final behavior you want is going to look like. Picture what it would be like if you could say "go to bed" or whatever verbal cue works for you both whenever you would like your dog to calmly retire to a specific spot while you have dinner or enjoy guests, etc., and your well-behaved dog happily rests quietly there for as long as you'd like.
We'll dive into all 10 steps to successfully shape "go to bed" below but the first baby step in your shaping program may just be your dog looking at the object, whether that's a bed or mat. That's it! Just a glance is a win in our book. Then maybe your dog moves toward the bed or mat, or touches it. Another win! Shaping is like playing a game of "hotter/colder" with our dogs, but in this case, we don't need to bother telling them "colder," because by focusing on and rewarding the "hotter," they'll begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together and learn to offer behaviors we want.
Before learning shaping make sure your dog understands clicker training (you could also use a verbal marker instead of a clicker, but the click is a more precise tool to signal a reward is coming). And have a clicker, high value treats aka something your dog considers a big reward, and a mat, dog bed, blanket, towel, etc. to serve as the shaping station.
Move up or down the steps in the shaping training plan below according to how well your pup does as you train. Some dogs may skip steps for example, which is great. It's also okay to go back a step or two if you find your rate of reinforcement is lagging or your dog is getting stuck. And it's also okay to take a break! If you feel that your dog is struggling with this behavior or getting frustrated, have some play time and come back to training when you're both ready.
Remember, we are setting our dogs up for success, so keep your training session fun and positive. Think of it as a shaping game and you'll both enjoy the journey to your goal behavior! Split up these instructions so you can keep sessions nice and short (no more than 2-5 minutes) and end on a high note with something fun like a belly rub or some playtime.
It's important to set up the training space so the desired dog behavior is likely to occur. You'll want to place your dog's bed, mat or crate in the place where you would like your dog to go. The more often your dog goes there for you, the faster he/she will learn!
This means setting the target behavior up to happen in a quiet, clutter-free space where there isn't a lot of interesting stuff lying around that may seem more intriguing to our dogs than the training process.
Think about where you're placing the mat - most dogs are interested in orienting to their person, so by placing the mat between your dog and you, you're increasing the probability that your dog will move toward it.
Also, think about how you present your reinforcer (high-value treat) - by gently tossing the treat away from you past the mat, you set your dog up for another opportunity to move back toward you after gobbling up the treat.
Keep in mind when taking a break that your dog may start at a slightly different place in the training plan once you resume. That's normal and totally fine. Your dog will likely move through the steps more quickly the subsequent times.
Be ready to click and treat before you place the mat or bed on the ground! We want to catch that very first "hey, what's that" moment to lead our dog in the right direction with that first small step toward the final behavior.
And now you're ready for the shaping training plan! Here are...
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Now you know how to train purposefully with your dog, reward your dog for offering the right behavior, and how to use the dog-shaping training method to teach your dog to "go to bed/mat." I hope you found this guide helpful!
Before teaching you how to train your dog to go to bed/mat for long periods of time, at a distance, or with distractions - let's learn from some common questions and answers here.
If you ever have questions, feel free to ask them in the Community discussion in the Manners Channel or I'm happy to help you 1-1 if you would like more personal training guidance.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this website and community is based on the research, expertise, and views of each respective author. Information here is not intended to replace your one-on-one relationship with your veterinarian, but as a sharing of information and knowledge to help arm dog parents to make more informed choices. We encourage you to make health care decisions based on your research and in partnership with your vet. In cases of distress, medical issues, or emergency, always consult your veterinarian.