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Teaching Your Dog to “Go to Bed” or Settle in a Designated Area

Teaching Your Dog to “Go to Bed” or Settle in a Designated Area

Teaching your dog to go to bed or settle in a designated area is an important skill for a few reasons. First, it gives your dog a place of their own to relax and feel comfortable. All dogs need a safe space where they can go to unwind and rest, especially in a busy household. Having a designated bed or mat trains your dog to settle on cue, which helps reduce anxiety. A dog that can settle on cue is also much easier to live with and less likely to get into trouble when unsupervised.

Additionally, having your dog go to bed allows you to have control over their location in your home. You can send them to their bed when you need them out from underfoot, like when you have guests over or are cooking dinner. It's also useful for controlling your dog when the doorbell rings or when you're leaving the home and don't want them darting out. Teaching a solid "go to your bed" command helps set rules and boundaries with your dog.

How to Choose the Right Bed or Settled Area

When teaching your dog to go to bed, the first step is selecting an appropriate bed or settled area. Here are some tips for choosing a good spot:

  • Pick a low-traffic area of your home so the bed is a peaceful spot. Avoid high-traffic zones like entryways or the middle of the living room.

  • Make sure the bed is in a quiet place away from windows, doors, and noise that may distract your dog.

  • Place the bed on a non-slip surface like a rug so it doesn't slide around on hardwood or tile.

  • Look for a spot with access to fresh water nearby.

  • Think about temperature – avoid drafty areas, vents blowing hot/cold air directly on the bed.

  • Measure your dog when standing and lying down fully outstretched to ensure the bed is large enough.

  • Remove furniture or objects that block easy access to the bed. You want an open path.

  • Elevated orthopedic beds are ideal for aging or mobility-limited dogs.

  • Washable beds are best for easy cleaning of accidents, fur, dirt, etc.

Choosing the right spot from the start will make training much smoother. Once you pick a spot, keep the bed or mat there permanently.

Training Basics

When teaching your dog to go to bed, follow these basic training guidelines:

  • Start training in a low-distraction environment without other pets or people around.

  • Always use positive reinforcement like treats, praise, or pets as a reward when they go to their spot. Never punish your dog for training mistakes.

  • Keep training sessions short, just 5-10 minutes. This prevents your dog from getting bored or overwhelmed.

  • Have patience! For many dogs, this skill takes days or weeks of repetition to fully learn. Take it slow.

  • Use a command like "go to your bed" and/or hand gesture consistently when directing your dog to their spot. The verbal and visual cue helps them understand.

  • Once your dog reliably goes to their bed on command at home, practice in other locations and with distractions added to solidify the skill.

Stick to these basic principles during training and you'll have success teaching your dog this useful command!

Step-by-Step Training Process

Here is a step-by-step process for teaching your dog to go to their bed on cue:

  1. Show your dog the bed and let them investigate it. Sprinkle tasty treats on it so they associate it with good things. Praise and reward any interest in the bed.

  2. Pick a command like "go to your bed." Say it excitedly when your dog is near the bed to capture their attention. Guide them onto the bed with a treat if needed.

  3. Once your dog is reliably getting on the bed, stand nearby and say your command, rewarding with treats when they go to the bed. Repeat this step often over multiple training sessions until they quickly go to the bed when you give the cue.

  4. Practice from greater distances – start just a few feet away, rewarding with treats tossed onto the bed. Gradually increase the distance from across the room, other side of the house, behind barriers, etc.

  5. Add distractions like bouncing a ball or crinkling a treat bag before giving the "go to your bed" cue. Start with mild distractions and increase difficulty. Reward often for compliance.

  6. Release your dog from the bed with another command like "okay" or "free." Make sure they wait for this release command and don't just leave the bed.

  7. Practice daily, asking your dog to go to bed randomly throughout the day during play, training, or meals. Offer praise and treats for a good response.

  8. If your dog gets up from the bed before being released, promptly say "ah ah!" and guide or lure them back to the spot. Keep distractions low if your dog struggles with this step.

  9. When your dog can hold a down-stay on their bed for at least 30 seconds, gradually extend the time. Vary the duration so they don't anticipate being released.

  10. When your dog reliably goes to their bed in all situations at home, take the training to new locations like backyards, pet stores, parks, friends' houses, etc.

With regular practice and positive reinforcement, your dog will learn to happily go settle on their bed whenever you give the cue!

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Learning to go to a bed doesn't always go smoothly. Here are some common problems and how to fix them:

Your dog won't go to the bed or gets up immediately: Make sure the bed is in a low-distraction area and is comfortable for long down-stays. Standing right next to the bed when giving the cue can also help. Go back to rewarding for just getting on the bed if your dog is confused.

Your dog wanders off or lays in a different spot: Use rewards to lure and guide your dog onto the correct bed. Practice your "go to your bed" command from very short distances at first. Decrease distractions in the environment.

Your dog refuses treats as a reward: Use other rewards like praise, pets, and life rewards such as getting to go outside or eat dinner. You can also motivate with toys on the bed. Make sure you're using treats they love.

Your dog startles or leaves the bed when released: Add a release cue like "okay" so they learn to wait for permission before getting up. Practice telling them to stay, walking away, then returning and releasing.

Your dog does well at home but not in new places: Be sure to take the training on the road! Practice in many different locations so they learn to generalize the behavior. Use high-value rewards when training in new environments.

Your dog has trouble settling for long durations: Build duration very gradually, starting with just seconds. Vary the time so they don't anticipate being released. Include periodic rewards for remaining settled.

With patience and consistency using positive reinforcement, you can troubleshoot any issues that arise during training. The key is to go at your dog's pace and set them up for success at each step.

Using the "Go to Bed" Command

Once your dog reliably goes to their bed on command, here are some ways to utilize this skill:

  • When guests visit, send your dog to their bed to keep them out of the way

  • When cooking, eating meals, or doing hazardous tasks, cue your dog to lay on their bed

  • Before opening exterior doors, tell your dog to go to their bed and wait so they don't dart outside

  • When you are leaving the home without your dog, send them to their bed before exiting

  • Prior to calmly handling, grooming, or brushing your dog, ask them to settle on their bed first

  • Before playtime or walks, ask your dog to go to their bed and wait for permission to leave it

  • When your dog is overexcited, redirect their energy by having them go lie down

  • If your dog begs, counter surfs, or gets in the trash, send them to their bed for a time-out

  • When you are busy on the computer or phone, cue your dog to go relax on their bed

  • During puppyhood, use the bed when you can't directly supervise to prevent accidents or chewing

  • When guests knock or ring the bell, send your dog to their bed so they are out of the way

  • Use the bed command when your dog is anxious about noises like thunder, fireworks, or construction

  • To manage dogs with separation anxiety, teach them to go to their bed when you're leaving

By asking your dog to go to their bed at opportune moments, you can keep them safe, out of trouble, and calm!

Special Cases and Safety Precautions

While teaching most dogs to settle on a bed is straightforward, here are some special cases to keep in mind:

Puppies: Puppies under 6 months may have trouble settling for long durations. Keep training sessions very short and don't expect a young puppy to settle for more than a minute or two.

Senior dogs: Older dogs often appreciate a padded orthopedic bed, and may need help getting comfortably situated. Start with short settle durations.

Anxious or fearful dogs: Don't force an anxious dog onto a bed. Make it a safe space they choose to retreat to when overwhelmed. Reward calm behavior on the bed.

Dogs recovering from surgery: Check with your vet on proper bedding material and height to support recovery and avoid reinjury. Heavily sedate dogs may attempt to get up even if in pain, so supervision is key.

Dogs with injuries or mobility issues: Avoid hard surfaces and consider a memory foam bed. Use lift harnesses if needed to prevent falls. Start with very short settle durations.

Unpottytrained puppies: Take puppies to potty immediately before crating or bed training sessions to help avoid accidents. Clean any accidents promptly and thoroughly to avoid re-soiling.

While teaching your dog this skill, always set them up for success by considering their age, health limitations, and other factors. Make their bed a positive space they enjoy spending time in.

Conclusion

Teaching your dog to settle and relax on cue in their designated bed or mat is a useful skill for any owner. It gives your dog a space of their own while allowing you control over their location in your home. With patience and positive reinforcement, you can train even excitable dogs to peacefully go to their bed when asked. Consistent daily practice and use of the command in real-life situations will solidify it for the long term. Put in the time to train this, and you'll have an easier time living harmoniously with your canine companion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about teaching your dog to go to their bed:

How long does it take to train this skill?

It depends on the individual dog, but expect the initial training process to take 2-4 weeks with daily 5-10 minute sessions. Puppies and high-energy dogs may take longer. With consistent practice over time, the behavior will become a well-established habit.

Where should I put my dog's bed?

Pick a quiet, low-traffic area of your home without too many distractions. Easy access to fresh water is ideal. Avoid drafty areas or anywhere uncomfortable. Measure your dog lying down fully to ensure adequate space.

What cues should I use?

Use a clear verbal cue like "go to your bed" and a hand gesture pointing to the bed. Be consistent with whatever commands you choose. You can add their name before the cue to get their attention.

Is it okay to send an anxious dog to their bed?

Do not force an anxious, fearful dog onto their bed – let the bed be a safe space they choose to go to. If they seek it out when overwhelmed, reward that. Build up a positive association with the bed at their pace.

Should I use mats or dog beds?

Beds with comfortable padding or orthopedic foam are ideal, especially for older dogs. But washable mats and towels work too. Your dog may prefer a certain material or texture. Offering both beds and mats provides options.

How can I stop my dog from leaving their bed before being released?

Add and reinforce a release command like "okay." Practice telling them to stay and walking away before returning to release. Correct attempts to break the stay by promptly guiding them back to the bed – keep corrections gentle.

Training your dog to go to their bed or mat and settle on command is a great skill for both pets and owners. With patience and positive reinforcement, you'll have a designated spot to send your dog when you need them to relax and stay out of trouble.

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