Part One: Building the Behavior
Do you ever wish that your dog would just leave you alone? Wouldn’t it be nice to eat supper in peace? Or would you like to train one dog and keep the other out of your hair? Maybe you need to think through a training problem or pause to talk with your instructor.
I have the answer – Stations!!
What Is a Station?
A station is a prop that the dog must maintain contact with, and it works to keep the dog at that particular object. This can be a blanket, rug, or raised dog cot. Of these choices, I prefer the raised dog cot because it’s very obvious to the dog when he is off the bed, which makes keeping criteria much easier.
Stations can be used anytime you need to give the dog a job but keep him or her out of your hair. You can use them during human meal times, when guests come over, when training another dog, while talking to an instructor, or while you set courses.
When a dog is on a station, I do not expect him or her to pay attention to me. Rather, I want the dog to just relax and hang out.
Your first job is to determine what criteria you would like on a station. Do you want the dog to keep all four paws on? Do you want the dog to stay in a down? Is it okay if the dog sits or stands? What if the dog moves 2 feet off the station, but stays on with the other two feet?
For my own dogs, my only criteria is that all four feet stay on the station. I don’t care what position the dog is in. If I’m training another dog, the stationed dog will rarely lay down, but rather stand or sit and watch. That’s fine as long as the dog doesn’t move any feet off the station. If I’m setting a course or talking to someone, my dogs typically will just lay down and hang out.
Stations Are Fun!
Your first job is to teach your dog that stations are a good place to be! Before you bring your dog out, choose a low-distraction environment. Put the station in the middle of the area and go get your dog. Be ready to mark and reward as soon as the dog shows any acknowledgment of the station. If he dog looks at it or sniffs it, mark and reward. When I am initially building value, I give two treats, one near or on the station and a reset treat to get the dog away from the station, so the dog can move toward the station again.
Once my dog is sniffing it or putting a couple feet on the station, I’ll throw the treat away from me and move so that the station is in between me and the dog. Most dogs will happily hop on the station as they come to you. Mark and reward by tossing a treat on the station then throw a reset treat off the station.
Here’s a video of me showing the first few steps:
And here’s a later session, when I was playing around with some different markers:
As your dog is comfortable getting on the station, you can start feeding the dog low to encourage a down. Although I encourage my dogs to down, the criteria is that the dog simply stay on the station.
Once the dog is happily hopping on the station, I will start sending the dog from a foot or two away. I want to see that the dog has value for getting on the station. I will gradually increase that distance until the dog is running across the room to get on his station!
Next week we’ll discuss adding some duration to the station, so stay tuned! View that blog post here.