Our puppy, Toki, is currently attending Puppy Kindergarten. Like the other new puppy parents, we have a lot of the usual questions about potty training, jumping, and chewing. But we also want to know – what’s the best way to keep your dog off a crash pad? It turns out, the best approach is letting your dog know where she should hang out, rather than focusing on where she can’t hang out.
This training method focuses on the use of praise and positive reinforcement to reward desirable behaviors rather than relying on punishment or corrective actions. This approach is supported by behavioral scientists as the most effective method of training, and is the method used by Dorna Sakurai, our LA-based puppy trainer. (Check out her blog for some entertaining videos of her dogs solving various dog puzzles.)
Keeping your dog off your crashpad involves training your dog to go to her “spot” as an alternative to running around on your crashpads. The training steps are: (1) get the behavior using a treat, (2) attach a word to the behavior along with a hand signal, (3) eventually add distance, then distractions.
Start by placing a mat, towel or blanket on the ground for your dog. Begin training using a lure (i.e. a treat) to entice your pup to stand on the mat, towel, or blanket. Without saying anything, throw the treat onto your “spot” and use the hand signal of your choice (pointing, for instance). When your dog stands on the mat, praise her. Repeat a few times until she regularly stands on the mat when you throw the treat. Next, add the word (we say “spot”). Don’t throw the treat at this point, but praise and give a treat as soon as she goes to her spot. Praise should be given within less than a second of standing on the mat. A clicker can be a good training tool for this. You should also wait 10-20 seconds after you give your dog the command before repeating the word. It was really interesting to watch Toki after I told her “spot” for the first time without throwing the treat. I waited for about 10 seconds and thought she was just going to ignore me, but then she suddenly jumped up, ran over to the mat, and plopped down!
Once your dog performs reliably, you can gradually add distance, and graduate to real-world, distracting situations. Eventually you can phase out food treats, and just use praise as a reward. For a more thorough treatment of positive reinforcement training, check out Paul Owens’ book, The Puppy Whisperer.