Monday, September 19, 2011

Command Clinic: Go to your Bed

Elka is allowed on the furniture.  I declared this early in our relationship.  There are, however, times it would be really useful for Elka to lay on her own bed.  When the couches and chairs are full of humans, for instance.

If all of the "comfy" spots are taken, Elka will frequently pace around for the entirety of the time, sometimes soliciting play or pets, sometimes not.  Judicious application of a Kong or Monster Mouth frequently helps.  But having her realize she can lay down on her bed would help a lot more! I mean, really, I can't blaming Elka for preferring the furniture; it's clearly warmer and more comfy. However, we've begun to work, in earnest, on "go to your bed!"

Since I just read The Thinking Dog: Crossover to Clicker Training, by Gail Tamases, and since "go to your place" and similar things are discussed quite a lot as shaping exercises (with pictures!), clicker was the way I wanted to go.  I love reading a really good training book; it inspires me to work with Elka, and be better and more patient when working with Elka.

So, I got a bunch of my lovely Canine Caviar "treats", and the clicker, and sat down in the blue chair to wait.  Elka was very interested in the treats in my hand; she tried to see if we were playing "which hand" and we were not.   She tried "testify", valiantly, but I said "try again".  Getting frustrated, she sat down and stared at the hand the treats were in.  That didn't work either.  Since I was sitting in the chair she normally noses when frustrated (the cushion flips really easily), she spun around, and lo, there was her bed! She stomped on it with her right paw.


Elka knows a click when she hears it, and she came to collect her treat.  Then she stared at the treat hand some more. And "testified" some more.  Then she went back over and sniffed the bed.

Then, while looking at me, she put her right front paw on it. Click, treat.  Hmm.  She sniffed around on the floor to make sure I hadn't dropped any treats. She tried "testify" while standing.  She went back to the bed and put her paw on it.  I waited.  She threw her left paw on it, preparing to scratch.  Click, treat.  Hmmm.  Some more staring occurred, and some hand nosing.  Then she spun, put both paws on the bed, and bowed. Click, treat.

Elka thinks, visibly, when we're doing shaping.  Sometimes, she doesn't repeat a behavior as soon as I think (or hope!) that she will, but that might be because we didn't train this way from the get-go.  The original way I sort of half trained her "go to your bed" was by luring, and then using "stay".  Clearly, it hasn't stuck.

So, after some more of this, with very deliberate "step on the bed and then stare at the treats and then huff because why wasn't it good enough", we got the butt on the bed.  Click, treat.  Yes, even though her butt is on the barest corner of the bed, because it still reinforces behaviors towards the end goal.  My criteria is to get Elka fully on the bed, and laying down, and then we'll work on duration. Frequently, the first part of her down is a sit, so I'll take it!

Every once in awhile, I'll reposition the bed, so that she doesn't get locked into "I can only lay on the bed when it's in this place.  I can only lay on the bed when Jen is sitting in X spot."  The bed is the point, not where it is or where I am with my treat hand.  Each time I moved the bed, and moved me, I eased up on the criteria a bit, just so that Elka was clear.

And then, for the pièce de résistance, head on paws. Click, treat.

Then, add the cue: "Go to your bed!"  Earlier today, I cued her, and she performed nearly every other trick that she knew until I led her to the bed and pointed at it.  Oh! Bed!  Later, after work, she went and laid on it, without prompting, not once, but twice. So, we're not 100% yet, but we've got a good thing going!


  1. OMG! I thought I was the only one with this problem! Daisy learned early on from her sister, Aspen, that couches were allowed, but now I don't know how to get her off without hurting her feelings. She so sensitive that if I tell her to get down she looks at me with the saddest eyes, as if I've yelled at her, which I have never done, and then she skulks away. I always feel SO guilty!

  2. You're not alone!

    Granted, if Elka is in the couch spot you want and you say "move", she'll move over. If you need her off entirely, you say "off". She'll never leave the room, though. They aren't joking when they call Dobermans "velcro dogs"!

    I would like to find a better dog bed than just a pillow, though. The "doggie couches" range from "ridiculous" to "ridiculously expensive", though. Too bad I'm not a carpenter....yet.