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

...unlike a super-confident dog who heads for the bed during her first lesson, your quiet, cautious dog may get only as far shifting her weight or lifting a paw in the right direction.


Most dogs do seem to get stuck a few times, especially in the early stages of teaching “Go to Bed.” Your dog might seem to forget about the bed – to stop orienting herself toward it, for instance. Or maybe she got as far as taking several steps toward the bed, then all of a sudden she quit doing anything. How you should respond depends on what your dog is doing. For instance, displacement behaviors are normal behaviors that show up out of context, such as sniffing the ground, licking the genitals, or suddenly discovering an itch that has to be scratched. They’re a sign of stress, so if you’re seeing them, give your dog a few minutes or more to chill out before you try again.

Try picking up the bed and putting it down again in a different spot. This often seems to “refresh” it or make it seem new and interesting again.

Your dog might seem to be confused but still in the game, though. Maybe she’s just sitting there looking at you for a cue.  Try picking up the bed and putting it down again in a different spot. This often seems to “refresh” it or make it seem new and interesting again. It’s also an important part of the training, because eventually you’ll be sending Dogalini to bed from different locations. Moving the bed around helps her figure out that she should focus on the bed, not a particular spot on the floor or any particular orientation toward you. You can also help keep your dog from getting stuck by moving around so that you and the bed aren’t in the same spots all the time. And when you deliver treats, toss them on the ground and close to the bed. Keep your dog moving as much as you can, especially if she automatically sits when she sees a treat coming.

Move the Training Along

Once your dog is confidently moving toward the bed, hold out for her to step on it, then to stand on it with all four legs, then to sit on it, then to lie down. Many dogs will readily experiment with sitting or lying on on the bed once they’ve got the idea to head for it in the first place, but your dog may learn faster if you give her a cue the first few times.

At this point, you can say your “Go to Bed” cue just before you know she’ll head for the bed anyway; she’ll associate the cue with her behavior.

Also, now you should gradually start holding out for longer times spent on the bed before you click and treat. Since your ultimate goal is for your dog to stay on the bed once she gets there, take several practice sessions for this part of the training. And give your dog a clear signal that she’s free to get up after each rep. Don’t toss a treat to lure her off the bed, because you want her to learn to stay parked on it in spite of distractions. Instead, invite her with body English. If she stays on the bed, that’s fine; the point of a release cue is that your dog is free to do whatever she likes. Have another training session later.

Last, practice with the bed in different locations and at different distances from you and your dog, so that she learns to head for it even if it’s in the next room. Be sure that she’s confident at each stage before you move on to the next.

“Go to Bed” the Lazy Way

Like a lot of clicker training, “Go to Bed” is waaay more work to describe than it is to do. When I used to teach puppy classes, we had most of our little students confidently heading for their mats in a session or two. And if you teach your dog with some precision, she’ll learn the lesson more reliably. But if a casual approach will do for you, try this.

Leave the bed down and make sure everything good happens on it. Feed your dog on the bed, pay attention to him when he’s on the bed, leave treats on the bed for him to find at random times. If you’re cooking, put the bed in an out-of-the-way corner of the kitchen or nearby, and make sure that tiny bits of your meat or cheese or pasta find their way to it; if that’s where the goods show up, that’s where your dog will learn to show up as well.

The “lazy way” doesn’t really call for less of your attention and focus than formal training sessions do. You just need to distribute your attention differently, taking advantage of any chance you see to make your dog’s bed super attractive to him, so he chooses to hang out on it often. One method doesn’t rule the other out, either – use both, and teach your dog not only to go to bed on cue, but also that bed is where a dog should lie in wait to get excellent surprises.

As always, you can write to me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I get so many questions that I can’t respond individually, but check out past episodes – I might already have answered yours! And visit me on Facebook, where I’m The Dog Trainer. Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Dog bed photo coutesy of Shutterstock.


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).