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  • Liz MacHaffie

Go to Spot for Independence Training





This is one way to build your anxious dog's confidence in being apart from you in the house.


The goal is for your dog to lie on their mat/bed calmly, with intermittent rewards, while you spend longer periods away from them while still in the house. Here's how to do it!


Teach Your Dog to Stand on the Spot


  • Put your mat in plain sight. It should be easy for your dog to get to.

  • Stand 1-2 feet from the mat and put a treat to your dog’s nose.

  • Lure her onto the mat with the treat.

  • As soon as she steps on the mat with all four feet, place a treat at the middle end of the mat every 2 or 3 seconds. (Fast enough she doesn't walk off the mat.)

  • Release your dog with “okay!” as she finishes eating the last treat and start over. Encourage her to come off of the mat before you do your next repetition. (You could throw a reset cookie here!)

  • Repeat until your dog successfully stays on the mat for about 10 seconds at least 3 times in a row.

  • Now, we want to add a verbal cue so that your dog will go to the mat when you request her to. Say “Go to your spot” right before you start luring her onto the mat. When she goes to the mat, reward her as before. Practice until your dog will go to her mat while you cue her from right next to the mat.

  • We also want to add a hand signal! Say “Go to your spot” and then make a big, sweeping point towards her mat (you can have treats in the hand at first, but you want to get them out of there soon!). When she goes to the mat, reward her as before. Practice until your dog will go to her mat while you cue her from right next to her mat.

Teach Your Dog to Lie Down on the Spot


  • If your dog is easily lured into a "down" or knows the cue for "down", great! If your dog has a hard time lying down or doesn't know it yet, you can skip to the next section! (Most dogs will begin to naturally lie down on their mat once they learn they're going to be there for a while.)

  • Cue your dog to go to her spot, then when she gets there, lure her into a “down” before giving the first treat.

  • Place the treats between her front feet. Continue to treat every few seconds just for 2-3 treats, then release your dog with “okay”!

  • Repeat this several times in a row.

  • After several repetitions where your dog is easily lured into a down, cue her to go to her spot and then wait to see if she lies down on her own. If she does, reward her! If she’s having trouble for more than 5 seconds, you can lure her down again.

  • Your goal is to help her be successful at lying down automatically (no lure or command) within a couple seconds of getting to her spot at least 4 out of 5 times.

  • Then, she’s ready to learn to lie down for longer!


Add Duration


  • To increase the time your dog stays on the mat, begin waiting longer between treats. You may move to 5 seconds, then 10, and so on. Only increase when she is successful at the difficulty level you are at! If she’s not having much success, make it easier by shortening the time.

  • Remember to let her know she can get up by saying “okay!”. Give her plenty of breaks.

  • Once your dog reaches about 10 seconds between treats, keep increasing your max time, but throw in frequent easy ones! This way, she can’t predict when one is coming! This keeps her motivated and engaged, and allows you to keep bumping up the maximum time she can go between treats. For example, when working on a maximum of 30 seconds, you might treat at 5, 15, 4, 30, 12, and 30 seconds.

  • If your dog gets up from the mat, encourage her to lie down again. When she does, praise but do not give her a treat right away! Count up to the same number of seconds you were requiring before she got up. Otherwise, she will learn that it is faster to get up and lie back down than to stay in position.

  • If she is getting up before succeeding more than 2 or 3 times, make it easier again. When you’re learning, it’s frustrating to get things wrong a bunch of times in a row!

  • Try and work up to 30 seconds between treats for 3 minutes.


Add Distance

  • Here's where we start adding in our dog's ability to feel calm while we're apart! This can be extra challenging for our anxious dogs.

  • You'll teach your dog to stay on her mat while you move away by gradually increasing your distance from the mat between treats.

  • Begin by pivoting away from the mat before returning to treat. As your dog is successful (at least 80% of the time!), continue gradually increasing your distance.

  • This will look almost exactly like teaching your dog a down-stay. See the "distance" section of the stay page for a reminder of how to do this.

  • Watch your dog for signs of stress. You want her to feel nice and calm/happy for this! You may find your anxious dog needs more time to feel comfortable with this than your other dogs.

  • You can also use this for sitting together in the same room! Set your dog's mat up next to your chair to start, then move further away at subsequent sessions.


Tips


  • While training this, be calm around your dog. Minimizing chatter and not giving too much energetic feedback can help them relax.

  • Regular use of your dog's Independence Training can help them be more comfortable and live a happier, less stressful life! Try and make time to do this with your dog a few times a week.

  • When you first begin, keep sessions short and sweet. (Just a minute or two.) As your dog gets comfy, you can extend them to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or more!

  • Are you not making the progress you'd expect? Let your trainer know and we can help you out!


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