This blog is by a guest poster named Marie.


I’m training my 13-month-old oversized mini poodle, Noelle, to lie down and stay. There are hundreds of  videos on YouTube about how to do this. I know, because I’ve watched them all. So far, the consensus is this. Lure a dog into a down position with a treat. Put your hand in front of her nose and tell her to stay. The dog instantly lies down on the floor, and doesn’t move. Noelle is a poodle. She’s smart. This should be easy. OK, I’ve got my clicker, my bag of treats, and I’m ready to train.

noelle

Me: Noelle, down. Stay.

Noelle: Okay, sure, mom. I’m lying down and staying. And now I’m not. I’m up and sniffing this very interesting crack in the floor. Did you know that you dropped a turkey sandwich right here in 1996? Because it smells like turkey still. I like turkey, did you know that? Do we have any turkey? How about sharing a sandwich with me, your faithful pal?

Me: Noelle, down. Stay.

Noelle: OK, Sure mom. I’m lying down and staying. And now I’m not. I’m off to play with this very interesting wrapper I found under the china cabinet. I saw it under there when I was lying down. I never would have noticed it otherwise. Let me see if I can dig it out. Oh, look it’s not a wrapper at all, but a piece of paper towel. Ooh, it’s towel flavored. Mmm.

Me: Noelle, leave it.

Noelle: OK, sure mom. I left the paper towel. But, look, I found a headless chew toy under the china cabinet, too. I think it was a rabbit once. Did you know I chased a rabbit in the yard? It hopped, hopped, hopped like this. See? The bunny was just like me, bouncing on your legs and off your legs, and on your legs and off your legs, and on your…

Me: Noelle, off! Down.

Noelle: But we did down all ready and I’m bored. How about if I practice some yoga moves instead? I could lie down with just my front end, and raise my tail in the air like a flag. Wave, wave, look it’s a happy flag. Or I could put my butt down in a sit and raise my paws in the air like this. Wave!

Me: Noelle, down. Stay.

Noelle: Okay, okay, I’m lying down. And now I’m up, because the cats came in the room. You don’t expect me to ignore my friends. It would be rude of me not to say hello. Hi kitties. Hi. We’re playing a game called lie down and get back up. Do you want to  play?

Me: “Noelle, down. Stay.”

Noelle: Aw, that again? How come you never say, “Noelle, howl like a firetruck siren?” Because I can howl. I’m super good at howling. Listen. Arroooooh! Arroooooh!

Me: Noelle, tone it!

Noelle: Arooooh! Arooooh! Fine, I’ll tone it, but only because I want to. Not because you Aaaaarrrrooooooh! told me to.

Me: Don’t you back talk me, Missy. Down.

Noelle: Sigh. You’re serious about this boring down stay thing. Okay, I’ll lie down like I don’t have any bones and just, plop. There, I melted. Boneless dog. I’m a poodle puddle. See?

Me: Yes, I see. Good girl.

This is what training Noelle to stay was like at first. It’s not as easy as it looks on YouTube. Training a curious, young dog to stay put is hard work. Especially training an intelligent, thinking dog like a poodle. Noelle demands that I up my training game.

I ran into a problem early on with Noelle getting up whenever she felt like it, instead of staying until I said she could get up. It took me a while to figure out what was going wrong. I was rewarding her at the wrong time. It’s an easy mistake to make. Down and stay, wait a moment, click, release and reward. I’ve watched videos where they trained their dogs to stay this way. Noelle wasn’t getting it. It took a while for me to figure out why.

Noelle was looking forward to being released from her stay, instead of looking forward to staying in place. I was treating at the wrong moment, and the clicker was adding excitement when I wanted calm. I put my clicker away and started giving Noelle treats at one second intervals, while she was lying down. Then I released her from her stay and didn’t offer any more treats. It didn’t take long for Noelle to figure out that by staying down and not getting up, treats would rain down on her.

With a simple tweak, I made the stay the good part, and the release from a stay the boring part. It’s made a world of difference?


To see more blogs by Marie, visit her site at Joy Benchmarks.