In 2017, I took a webinar through the Pet Professional Guild given by Michele Pouliot who is a canine musical freestyle expert. The webinar promotes the use of platforms to train dogs to do all kinds of behaviours. In the webinar, Michele even explains how they are now using platforms to train even guide and service dogs.
For our purposes, platforms can be used to teach dogs so many things that you won’t want to be without one. Platforms are like pedestals or tables but are smaller and lower to the ground.
When you start using a platform, you are teaching the dog to default to the platform. This means that the dog should be rewarded so frequently for going to and being on the platform that the dog will immediately go to and sit or stand on the platform. it becomes the first thing your dog thinks about when he sees the platform – the default.
Platforms are smaller or shorter because they will be FADED from use at some point. Because they are low to the ground they are easier to fade. Your dog will not always be on a platform after the behaviour has become a habit. Pedestals are more for performance use and are usually a permanent piece of equipment.
Platforms can be purchased from several different places or made at home. It all depends on the time you have to spend making one, and your ability to purchase. I need many, many platforms so I choose to make them myself (Ernie makes the wooden ones and I paint them).
So why do you need a platform? Why not just teach the behaviour without the platform?
The truth is obviously that you don’t need one. But, there are some good reasons to consider using a platform to train almost any behaviour.
Easier To Train
The first reason is that because the dog is so heavily rewarded for being on the platform and it becomes a default position, it is easier to teach the dog something new at a distance. The dog becomes “stuck” to the platform.
For example, this makes it much easier to teach a stay because the dog is reluctant to leave the platform, or to teach a “go away” for the very same reason. You can quickly teach your dog to stay in one place while you change positions. Properly apply a cue to the behaviour on the platform, eliminate the platform, and the behaviour is stronger because of it (my opinion, results are obviously subject to all kinds of variables).
Good For Brain And Body
When a dog enjoys being on a platform, he will also be more confident and try out new and different behaviours to get rewarded. This is stimulating both mentally and physically for the dog.
When I introduced Ira, who is now 6 months old, to the large platform, he had obviously never been on a platform. When I didn’t click him for having a foot on the floor and not on the board, he immediately adjusted his footing for a click.
Yes, this is part of what happens when you clicker train, and any training prop might get this response, but platforms are versatile and good for training just any normal behaviour that you might need your dog to know on a daily basis. So, in that way they are more useful than a training tool simply to train a trick or competition behaviour. Giving your dog stimulating mental and physical activities is important and this does both in my opinion.
More Precise Behaviours
If you are training for any kind of competition, platforms can make more precise behaviours.
I used a small sitting platform to work on straight fronts with Tommy for “precision” competition (formerly “competition obedience”). In only four training session, his “sits in front” drastically improved. Not only does the platform help the dog to sit in the correct position, they help me to train because the platform pretty much tells the dog what to do.
The dog sits in the right place and gets click/rewarded. No correcting, no moving around. Simple, easy (as far as I’m concerned)
Here is a video on using platforms to train.
And another one about starting to train with a platform:
I have included the link to the webinar below in case anyone wants to give this a try with some more instruction (it states that the webinar will be ending in 2020 so when it does you can likely find another webinar if you do a search). The webinar is not really a full tutorial of how to use and train with platforms, but gives enough of an idea to start you off on using these great training tools.
Learn About Platform Training For Dogs With Michele Pouliot http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/event-2142391
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Happy platform training!