All Aboard! Station Training for Primitive Dogs
Station training is a familiar concept with a fancy name. Basically, it is teaching your dog to go to a specific location and staying there until released. Generally, the station is the same every time until the dog is fluent with the cue and then you add in new stations or locations.
Stations are powerful because they can be used to help dogs get out of stressful situations by sending them to their station aka safe place. They can also be used to help keep a dog away from an open door, waiting to greet a guest, or simply be safe instead of being underfoot. Regardless of the exact reason, station training is well worth the effort.
Start out was either a bed your dog has used or with a mat. If you choose a mat, get something with a rubbery bottom so that it doesn’t slide around. A bathmat or doormat will work nicely. This isn’t meant to be a long-term location for your dog so you don’t need anything too padded or fluffy. Place the mat or bed in a location that is across the room from open doors, guests, and in general, out of the way of room traffic.
Start out near your dog's station location and wait to see if they accidentally touch it. Ideally, we don’t want to cue them yet, so stay stationary. You can stare at the station, but don’t wave your hand, twist your face or motion in any way. Just wait. And don’t cheat…
If they get on to to the station, praise, and reward. Don’t give it a name just yet, but start thinking of one. If your dog stays on it, continue to reward every few seconds. If they move off, stop rewarding and continue looking at the station. After 2-3 minutes of training this, pick up the station and put it away. We don’t want your dog going to it and not getting rewarded right now.
If they didn’t go on it on their own, drop a tiny piece of food at the far side of it so your dog has to step on it. When they dog praise and give more treats. Try not to lure with food. Only do this if your dog seems clueless. The minute they start stepping on it on their own, stop dropping treats.
Practice this 2-3 minute training session 2-3 times a day. After about 4 days you can start giving it a name. I usually recommend naming during praise. “Place, Yes, Good Place” or something like that. Don’t use a cue before that point. Meanwhile, as the sessions continue your dog should be seeing the station and heading right for it. Try to follow them to it rather than you coaxing them. Pause and wait if they won’t walk to it without you right there. If you walk them to it now, you’ll be walking them to it forever. Continue to randomly reward duration too.
After 2 weeks of training including a week of giving it a name. Start saying the name first and then encourage your dog to go to the station. You’ll have to reward them there anyway so that this point your dog should be putting the elements together. If they are fuzzy geniuses and running to it already, you are fine to toss them the reward and then continue to toss to reward duration. Once you are done rewarding, use a release word to tell them they are free to move off it. Do not leave them to quit on their own or you will have no duration later on when things get interesting.
As your dog gets really good at station. Start sending them after various distractions, like a knock on the wall, the doorbell, dropped objects, spilled water, etc. Think about the future, dropped objects could be pills, broken glass, or other dangerous objects so practice scenarios (but don’t use real pills or glass…).
Create station locations in each room you want to control where your dog is. When you do this, start from the beginning but speed up the challenge. Your dog will figure out it is the same game and catch up quickly. You can even train this outside for a relaxed stay in public places.
Send us a video or photos of your dog stationing. We’d love to see them and we’ll even share them with our fans.