We are now at month four of training the “Go To” game. Over the last three months we have been working towards teaching your pup or adult dog to get on a mat, lie down and stay there until otherwise advised. This month we are going to work on getting this same behaviour in different locations of the house and then next month we will discuss how to incorporate distractions into the training.
Part of teaching any new behaviour to a pup should involve training it in lots of different locations. Dogs learn by association so don’t assume that they will automatically be able to perform a trained behaviour anywhere just because they do it at home. This training helps to make the behaviour stronger and increases the probability of it happening no matter where they are.
Decide on some different locations around the house that might be useful places for your pup to spend time. Some areas to focus on are the kitchen, lounge and study. Start with the kitchen to stop a pup from getting under your feet while cooking. Put the mat at the end of the kitchen bench so that the pup is out of the way but can still be easily reward for correct behaviour. By now, as soon as the mat comes out, the pup should want to get on to it straight away because it now understands the value of being on it. Once he gets on the mat and lies down, give him a reward and then move away to get on with your kitchen duties. If your pup stays there when you move away immediately go back and reward, then go back to what you were doing in the kitchen. Slowly increase the amount of time between rewards as your pup continues to be successful.
If your pup gets off the mat without being told, get him and put him back on. Do not scold him. Remember that this is something new that they are learning and it achieves nothing to tell him off for something it hasn’t yet learnt how to do. Decrease the duration and if he stays put, reward for correct behaviour. If he continues to get up it could indicate that you are going too fast for him so go back and make it easier to assist in strengthening the pups understanding.
Important points to note are that all sessions should be timed. For example, the first session should not go for any more than one minute. There must be an end point when you’re going to finish the session. Then, as the pup gets better, the length of time you can spend on the session can increase. Remember that puppies have a lower concentration span so don’t be tempted to make it too long until he is ready. When the training time is up, give the pup permission to get off the mat and then lavish him with praise and a huge cuddle or even a game of tug with his favourite toy.
Once the pup is consistently successful in the kitchen, move to other areas of the house including different locations outside.