Terrie Hayward explains how to train:
- R+ Paddle board: Step number one is to create a positive association with the paddle board while on land. Any time that your dog looks at the paddle board, click and treat. The next level would be clicking for any voluntary interactions with the board. If the dog decides to explore the board by sniffing it or getting on top of it, use a high rate of reinforcement. In other words, click and treat often for this decision!
- Hand Target: The hand target lets you move the dog around without physical manipulation. When you teach a dog to targetyour hand with his nose, you can then teach him to follow a moving target to get up on the board. From there, targeting lets you move the dog around on the board so that he is sitting or lying down in a convenient location.
- Sit/Down: It will be far easier to balance if your dog is sitting or lying down squarely in the middle of the board where your center of gravity lies, at least when you start! Be sure to mark and reinforce sits and/or downs in many different locations before asking for a sit or a down on the board. To get several repetitions, click for a sit or for lying down on the board and then toss the treat off of the board, setting your dog up for another round!
- Sit or Lie Down with Duration: Practice waiting for a bit, clicking after your dog has his bottom or belly down. In this way, you are marking the amount of time the dog is sitting or lying instead of just the sitting or lying behavior. Again, practice this behavior off the board and then build to practicing on the paddleboard. Once your dog is sitting or lying down with some duration, you can add in distractions, too. Try moving the paddle around and/or moving one foot. Will your dog remain in place? If yes, click and treat! If not, try an easier version of this behavior and build it back up.
- On the SUP: Now you are ready to put it all together on top of the paddle board, out in the water. Remember that since this step is increasing your criteria significantly you should drop back your expectations in other areas temporarily. To begin, try a shorter duration sit and/or try clicking and treating just for a sit without any duration. Try very small movements following a moving target and/or try a few confidence-building, easy hand targets in place. These steps will increase your dog’s comfort level and give him a simple behavior where he can succeed.
- Increase Criteria on the SUP: Eventually, increase the sit or lying down duration, directing your dog to the best position (your ideal spot) by following a target. Cue a sit or a down exactly where you would like your pup to be for the ride. Relax and enjoy the experience together!
Have fun on the water with your dog! For more tips on how to train better and have fun with your dog this summer and beyond, check out KPA’s Dog Trainer Comprehensive course! Or consider joining Terrie Hayward for our upcoming Dog Trainer Professional program in Atlanta, GA.