There are times, for instance the post-prandial holiday crash, when you simply don’t feel like getting up off the couch. As I was enjoying a bit of peace after a recent deluge of family and friends, my dogs decided that they just weren’t in the mood. As sometimes happens, my life has been busier than I really wanted it to be and I was a wee bit neglectful of the dogs, according to them. Their basic needs were met, but they hadn’t gotten much quality time for awhile. After everyone left, and I was in the mood for a nap, they were not. But I dug my heels in and decided I was NOT getting up. My clicker was in a Tupperware container next to the couch with some crumbs from and small pieces of old treats in the bottom. If they wanted my attention, I decided they needed to work for it. After I picked up the clicker and a few small treats, I put my feet up, grabbed the remote, and waited. I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for, but I just decided to be patient and see what they offered, if anything. Turns out, they didn’t think of this as work at all, just a lot of fun!
The Start of a New Approach
After a few minutes, my boy got himself stuck between the couch and the coffee table. Backing up was the only way out. I took this as a great opportunity to click and treat that behavior. After getting the treat he simply stared wide-eyed and pleadingly at me for awhile. Eventually, he wedged his wide body in the space between the couch and the sofa once again. Giving up and frustrated with the lack of my attention he backed out again and I clicked and treated. Next time it didn’t take him nearly as long to come forward, wedge himself in the tight space, and then back up. A few more repetitions and he was clearly engaged and understanding this game, so I began to add my cue “back up” as he did so. It was then easy to use the cue before he backed up, thus essentially putting “back up” on cue. Voila! One more behavior to add to his list.
What was born out of laziness got me to thinking of all the other things that could be taught from the couch. Here is the short list:
- high five
- go away
- go to mat
The list just kept growing and growing. Of course it would be hard to teach “let’s go” or “heel” from the couch but I began to realize that many basic behaviors could be taught this lazy way and generalized to other locations later.
How to Start Training From The Couch
It isn’t hard. Have your clicker handy and many treats and get ready for a new training experience. Be prepared for new behaviors. I don’t know why my dogs were so excited about this. Perhaps it was because generally if I sit on the couch it is down time for me and I am doing something that they are not invited to do with me, such as reading. But they were clearly offering me new behaviors right and left perhaps because of the novelty of this set up. They sneezed, they tossed their heads, they pranced in place. It was great and I had lots to choose from.
As usual, the sequence was :
- get the behavior
- get the behavior repeatedly
- click and treat the behavior
- add the “cue” when they are offering the behavior
So for them, this became an exceptional treat and gave me some needed time to recoup. Of course, it doesn’t help burn off many calories but there is always springtime to look forward to for that!