Go to Your Spot
Updated: May 7
One of the most useful behaviors to train your dog! This can be used for managing your dog when they're playing with another dog, when guests come over, when you're out to eat, when you're trying to do yoga and the dog is pretty sure ... The goal is for your dog to go to a designated mat/bed and lie down calmly, with intermittent rewards, until you release her with “okay!”. We break it up into four pieces to make it easier!
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. You can start using the handshape for your hand signal: a fist with the pointer finger out!
As soon as she steps on the mat with all four feet, mark with “yes” and 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.
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 ask 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
It can help to teach this in multiple, short repetitions!
Cue your dog to go to her spot, then when she gets there, lure her into a “down” before marking with “yes” and giving the first treat. (Try not to say “down”, it can make it harder for this to become automatic.)
Place the treats between her front feet. Continue to mark “yes” and 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, mark “yes” and 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!
Teach Your Dog to Stay Until Released
To increase the time your dog stays lying down, 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!”.
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 1 minute between treats for 3 minutes.
Teach your dog to stay on her mat no matter where you are by gradually increasing your distance from the mat between treats. If you need to be able to move around while your dog is settling, this is an important step. 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 exactly like teaching your dog a down-stay. See the "distance" section of the stay page for a reminder of how to do this.
Keep throwing in easy repetitions!
Teach Your Dog to Go to Her Spot From a Distance
Your dog will likely need help responding to “go to your spot” when you are not so close to the mat. This is the last step to the complete behavior.
Begin gradually increasing your distance from the mat when you cue “go to your spot”. Start by standing 3 feet away, then try 5, 10, then 15, and so on.
Try it from various locations in the house. Your dog should be getting it right at least 80% of the time (4 out of 5 tries) before you increase your distance.
The possibilities for using this are endless! Here's Poppy on her spot while guests are over. Done well, your dog can even learn to relax on her spot!