Q: I’ve been reading about different ways I can train my rescue pup. Would you explain what platform training is and how I can use it?
A: For many pet parents, using a platform to train a dog may be a foreign concept. In the dog training world, though using a platform is the ideal way to introduce training and to get your dog to know that training is happening.
What is a platform?
A platform can be almost anything—it just needs to elevate your dog from the floor to a higher space. The reason is, that when your dog is on his or her platform, it’s an indication that “we’re going to practice something new.”
You can invest in platforms that dog trick trainers and dog training professionals use. These platforms are typically made of hard plastic, have removeable legs and have a non-slip surface. Platforms come in varying heights to suit the size of the dog and to be used as a trick training step platform.
Look around your house and consider these items for platform use:
A low table
A footstool or ottoman
A large phone book (if you receive one)
A sturdy wooden box
A concrete block
A piece of furniture your dog doesn’t typically get on. For example, if he sits on the couch with you, then using the couch as a platform could send a mixed message
You don’t have to go out and invest in platforms if you don’t want to or if it’s not in the budget. Look around your house and we’ll bet you can quickly and easily find an item to use as a platform. Just make sure it is non-slip. You don’t want your pup to get injured.
Get your dog accustomed to the platform
Now that you have your platform you need to use a command that lets your dog know that it’s training time. You could say the word, “up” and point to the platform. Make sure you give him a tasty treat and praise when he gets onto the platform.
If you’re using a traditional platform or if you are using something you have at home, you need to get your dog accustomed to it. He may be afraid of it because it’s something new and foreign. What you need to do first is get him to walk toward it, sniff it and scope it out. Praise him for these actions.
Resist the urge to lift him onto it. You can certainly place his paws on it and reward him for doing just that. As he becomes more comfortable you can then lure him onto it. Once your dog has gotten on top of the platform, praise and treat him. Don’t lead him to the platform, stay behind him and urge him to jump up on to the “mark” (aka platform). This should be an action he performs on his own once you’ve shown him what you want him to do and have rewarded him for having done it.
It may take a few sessions for your dog to understand you want him to get on top of the platform. Go slowly and remember training should be fun for both of you.
What training can you do using a platform?
You can train any number of things on the platform. Basic obedience can be taught when your pup is on the platform.
Stay will likely be the first thing you teach. Your dog will most likely be fighting the urge to leap off the platform because he’s not accustomed to it. Teach stay by saying the word and using a hand signal such as holding your hand, palm up, toward him. Reward him for staying. You will eventually want to move further and further away from the platform to reinforce the stay. Don’t forget to have a release word when your dog can get off the platform.
Start with sit, which is a simple command most dogs learn as one of their first obedience commands. The easiest way to get your dog to sit is to get her to look at you, have a small treat in your hand and place it by her nose. Lift the treat over her nose until her butt hits the platform. As soon as she sits, say the word to reinforce the action, give her a treat and praise.
From there, move on to down or stay or even a fun trick like shake.
Benefits of using the platform for training
When your dog sees the platform and is on the platform, she knows it’s not playtime and that it’s time to learn. He will come to anticipate the next lesson, your undivided attention and of course, the treats and praise!
For pet parents of dogs who are fidgety and full of energy, getting onto the platform might help them focus their energy and pay more attention to you and to the training.
When you go to the circus or zoo or the aquarium that lions, tigers, elephants and seals are on platforms when they are performing. They know when they are on the platform – it’s showtime!
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.