NATALIE asks, “I have a silk rug from Turkey that I wish to train my dogs (black lab and welsh corgi) to not lay on. They are both smart dogs but I am not communicating what I want them to do effectively. I appreciate any guidance. Thank you, – Natalie”
Dear Natalie, It’s a good question. And the technique for training this behavior is really cool.
It’s the same approach we use to teach dogs to stay out of the street, or off the furniture. First, the dogs should be wearing pinch collars and tabs (1 foot leashes) any time you’re with them. And when you’re not with them, the dogs should be confined to an area where they cannot walk on the rug without getting corrected.
To start with, confine one dog, and with the other, put a 6′ leash on him. Now, throw something (like a toy) on the rug, that will tempt him to walk on it. As soon as he puts his first paw on the rug, say, “No!” and pop the leash (loose-tight-loose) in the direction that is away from the carpet.
Here’s the concept: You want the dog to think of the whole exercise as a safe zone/hot zone area. The safe zone is anywhere in the room EXCEPT the rug. The hot zone is the rug. The dog should come to understand that walking on the rug is similar to walking on a hot stove. It feels UNCOMFORTABLE, and he wants to get back into the safe zone as soon as possible.
Now, if the dog puts more than one foot on the rug, and actually walks to the center of the rug… it’s okay to drag (quickly) him back to the safe zone. This is one of the few instances where you’re actually pulling on the leash, instead of giving a quick “pop” on the leash.
What you’re doing is creating a constant negative motivation until the last of his four feet are off the hot zone. (When you rest your hand on a hot stove, it doesn’t just burn for a second… it keeps feeling uncomfortable until you take your hand off.)
Next, tempt the dog again. If your first correction was motivational, you’ll see him refuse to walk on the carpet. WHEN YOU SEE THAT THE DOG HAS MADE A DECISION, AND IT’S THE RIGHT decision… PRAISE HIM! WHEN THE DOG HAS MADE A WRONG DECISION, CORRECT HIM, AND THEN GIVE HIM THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THE DECISION AGAIN. IF HE THEN MAKES THE RIGHT DECISION, YOU’RE GOING TO PRAISE HIM.
Next, you can put the tab on him and start doing the exercise with a variety of different distractions. If you’re half way across the room and he walks on the rug, you should say, “No!” as soon as his foot touches the carpet, and then “NO, no, no!” as you walk to him and immediately correct him back into the safe zone.
Your success with this exercise will depend on how motivational your corrections are, how precise your timing is (never correct the dog if he’s now in the safe zone) and your attention to making sure that you’re consistent in your enforcement until the dogs drop the behavior. Once you’ve done the one dog, put him away and repeat the exercise with the other dog.