Training Thursday: Teaching A Chillax Cue

Being able to ask your dog to go and chillax is really important. If you find yourself getting frustrated because your dog is drooling on your knee while you’re eating at the table, or they’re bouncing around while you’re welcoming visitors, or they’re sitting in front of the TV during your favourite programme… you need to be able to ask them to do something else. In order to ask them to do something else, they need to understand the cue. In order for them to understand the cue, you need to teach them.

So, a great cue to teach is ‘go to bed’ (or, ‘on your bed’ / ‘go settle’ – whatever works for you) and you can use it when you need your hound to chillax.

Here are some simple steps to follow and this is just one example of how to teach your dog this cue.

  • Make sure that your dog is relaxed and somewhere that’s free of distractions. There’s no point starting this just before they’re due to go for a walk!
  • Put your dog’s bed in the place that you’d like them to go and chillax.
  • To start with, just lure your dog with a treat or a toy and when they have all four paws on the bed, praise them & give them the treat or the toy. This can be easier with a small treat as some dogs will be so excited by the toy that they play, leap of the bed and unless you have taught them a ‘drop’ cue, the opportunity is lost as you chase them around the house trying to retrieve the toy!
  • At the moment, you’re just getting the dog used to the action of walking to the bed, putting all four paws on the bed and being rewarded. You don’t need to worry about asking them to sit or lie down. So, just keep repeating it and your dog will follow the lure, step onto the bed and be rewarded… simples!
  • Now, we can start adding in the cue. ‘Go to bed’ is said as you start the lure, which will also involve your hand moving to point to the bed. Your dog has practiced the behaviour you’d like them to show, so now you’re adding the words and pairing those words with the movement. Repeat this until your dog is quickly and easily following the cue and being rewarded.
  • Now, you can ask your dog to sit or lie down when they get on their bed. So, you’re saying the cue, the dog is going to the bed and once they’re on it, you ask them to sit or lie down… then reward them.
  • The aim is that you dog knows the cue and that they learn to stay on the bed so that they’re happy to settle while you have a meal or chat to a visitor. So, now you need to start waiting a little bit longer before you reward them. Gradually build up the time and if your dog is unsettled, it just means you need to build up the time more slowly.
  • You also need to ensure that your dog is happy to chill out on the bed without you sitting next to it, so practice while you’re standing and at different distances from the bed as well as starting to walk away.
  • If you take a couple of steps away, go back and fuss / reward your dog… then take four or five steps… so you’re not just disappearing and your dog is happy to relax.

It’s important that you practice this in a quiet environment and that your dog really does understand the cue before you put them to the test for a family meal or when there are lots of visitors. Spending half an hour doing this on a Thursday and expecting them to go straight to their bed when you have a Friday evening dinner party is unrealistic, so give yourself the time to teach this over a couple of weeks, set your dog up to succeed and make it fun so that when they hear the cue in the future, they understand and know that going to their bed is a great place to be!

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