Park It …. the advanced level of Go To Bed
Once you get Fido reliably going to bed on cue, we can now begin to work on Park It, a command that is very handy in dealing with problem behaviors such as barking, charging doors, begging at the dinner table and bothering new visitors to your home. This one might be a little more challenging than teaching go to bed, but the results will be far more advantageous! The goal here is to condition the dog that the snap of your fingers and a point to the location where you want your dog to park (your hand signal) and/or the words park it (your verbal cue) will tell the dog to go to a particular place and lie down and settle. The simplest way to think of park it is as an advanced level go to bed, and yes, the way you teach this command is somewhat similar to the method we used to teach go to bed. The technique will be a little different though. First and what is most difficult, you need to be able to snap you fingers Now that we have that task down, we then begin by shaping this behavior. First pick a spot in the room where you spend the most time, the den or living room (the room with the boob tube in it!) Next, get a bed of some kind, it could be a blanket, a fancy bed from the pet mart, or if you are mean you can even pick just a spot on the floor. So we have a cue – snapping fingers, a location, now all we need is a way to get the dog on that spot! Enter the treats! First, call your dog to the location (snapping your fingers and pointing to the spot,) then lure the dog onto the spot with the treat and ask for a sit. As you are reading this you are probably thinking to yourself, he said the dog needed to be lying down and settled, didn’t he? Yes I did, and we will get there, but just as always it will take patience. Early on as I started training, I did lure the dog into a down and attempt to work on stay while they were in the park it. But I quickly found that because down is a submissive position for a dog (that will come in a future post) they constantly tried to get up and move because they were uncomfortable, or I, as the trainer, was not patient enough and moved training too fast (even a trainer needs to know when they screwed up ) So I found another way around the same problem! I simply asked for a sit and was patient this time, waiting for the dog to get tired during the stay and guess what, they laid down on their own.
Let me warn you now, don’t get in a hurry on this one. The distractions under which you will be working will make this command very hard to achieve with reliability. Think about it, you will use park it in situations such as dinner, new people and barking, so if you expect Fido to learn fast YOU WILL FAIL! Let me illustrate this with a story…When I started teaching my dogs park it, it was because the family was tired of having six eyes staring at us during dinner! Here’s the bad news, it took me six weeks to get them kinda reliable, let me repeat KINDA! I SPENT SIX WEEKS EATING, STANDING UP IN THE DOORWAY OF THE KITCHEN RE-PARKING MY DOGS EVERY 5 MINUTES! But then it was every 7 minutes then 9 and so on…I am happy to say that now my family can, for the most part, eat without interruptions, but there are still times where we have to do some reminding! This being said, remember to take it slow and build up to reliability. One final note on this command, do not use it on problem behaviors until the command is at least at an 80% reliability with at least 10 minutes of duration. We will cover how to use park it for specific problem behaviors in future posts.
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