Teach Your Dog to 'Go to Bed'

Learn how to teach your dog to go to her bed on cue, and to park herself there voluntarily. So handy when you can’t bring her to the right spot yourself and when you don’t want to crate her!

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #210

It’s often convenient to park your dog: To crate her while the delivery men bring in your new refrigerator. To  have her hold a down-stay, instead of climbing on you and licking your face, while you sit on the floor to wrap enormous holiday presents. And you can teach her to self-park, by going to her bed and hanging out on it when she might otherwise get in your hair. This week, why “Go to bed” – or whatever you decide to call it – is useful. And two ways to teach it: a formal one, and a sloppy one for those of us who, like me, are laaaaazy.

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“Go to Bed” the Formal Way

When you send Dogalini to bed, the first thing she has to do in order to comply is look around for the bed. So when you start training, you’ll reward her just for noticing the bed. As I’ve explained in my episodes on clicker training, a clicker is the easiest and most exact way to indicate to your dog that she’s on the right track and has earned a food reward. But if you don’t have one, you can choose one short word as your marker instead. I use “Yes.” Here’s how to set up.

Have ready your dog’s bed, your clicker, and a hefty supply of small, tasty treats. Oh, yes, you’ll also need your dog. Drop or place the bed on the floor, and as you do so, watch your dog. She will probably at least glance at the bed, because it’s in motion. Also, even if it’s her usual bed, it’ll be “new” in this context, and that will also attract her attention.

Start Small – A Glance at the Bed!

The instant you see your dog glance at the bed, mark her behavior with a click or a “Yes” and immediately deliver a treat. Many or most dogs will look at the bed again – mark and treat. Every time you do this, it becomes more likely that your dog will look at the bed; after, say, half a dozen reps, hold out for a little more action before you mark and treat.

This could be a bigger head turn toward the bed, or a shift of your dog’s body weight in the direction of the bed, or an actual step toward the bed. Clicker training is both solid science and an art; the art is in your careful attention to your dog and your knowledge of her personality. If she has a lot of reward-based training under her belt, she may experiment eagerly and persistently, trying “bigger” behaviors to get you to click. That eager, confident, experienced dog may be heading for the bed during your very first training session.

Be Patient with Cautious Dogs

At the other end of the spectrum is a dog who maybe doesn’t have a lot of practice learning new things, or who’s a little more cautious by nature, or (worse) who has a lot of experience with the kind of training that consists mostly of punishing mistakes. These dogs may be reluctant to try new behaviors and less likely to keep trying if the rewards don’t flow quickly. To help them learn, keep training sessions short and fun. A dozen reps is plenty. And don’t expect too much at first...


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).