There are no magic wands in dog training but stationing might be the closest thing to magic. Most of the dogs we work with are taught to go to a bed and lie down on cue. Its not flashy, its not complicated but I will tell you, it can solve lots of problems.
Filling the gaps
Everyone knows that moment where you just yell “knock it off” to your dog. Those moments where you would like them to stop doing the thing they are doing and really any other behavior will be fine.
It works for roughhousing, barking, eating stuff off the counter, bolting from the door, and wanting to bite the mailman. This magical ability gives your dog the information they need to be successful in a multitude of situations.
What is stationing?
Stationing is sending your dog to a marked location where they are expected to stay until they are released. So your dog is taught that a cue word means go to the station and lay down until told otherwise. Seems simple! But oh so amazing!
This skill is used widely in the zoological world for shows and cooperative care on wild animals. If an otter and a dolphin can station, your dog can too!
How does it work?
First, it gives the dog information about how to handle a certain situation. When left to their own devices, dogs usually choose the incorrect option. Usually the option they choose is barky lungy behaviors when we would really like calm and quiet. Asking them to station, gives the dog a clear map to calm and quiet in many different situations.
When trained with positive reinforcement, teaching your dog to go to his bed also attaches feelings of calm and happiness. Dog is barking at the wind blowing, asking them to go to their bed means go feel calm and happy. Since every behavior also has a feeling attached to it, attaching the feeling of calm and happy to a once stressful situation, helps your dog cope with the situation a bit better. This in turn helps your training plan.
Give it a try
Get a brand new bed (or new to your dog bed). Get your clicker in one hand and 10 treats in the other. Drop your bed. When your dog walks over to investigate, click and treat quickly 9 times, and toss the 10th treat off the bed with a “get it” Pick up your bed. Repeat until your dog begins bouncing back to the bed. Wait until your dog starts to put four feet on the bed before you start clicking and treating, then wait for them to sit, then wait for them to lay down. Make sure you don’t ask them to sit or lay down. We want it to be their idea!
Meanwhile you can introduce your release word before you toss your “get it” treat. We use “Break.” Don’t use okay, you use it too much in normal situations. Trust me.
When your dog is bounding back to the bed and laying down consistently, you can name the behavior! We call this “place” in my house.
Once your dog is going to the bed and waiting to be released, use it in normal life and see how it helps everyone live a better life together!