Something that’s trending in the spaniel world is platform or place board training. Naturally, it had to come from the British spaniel men in order for it to become interesting for the regular spaniel trainer in Sweden 😉 … For those of us who’ve been training with targets, platforms really aren’t anything new. But they are a clever too! I like using a platform with the dogs that tend to take those few extra steps after the stop whistle at a distance. If they like their platform, they’ll stop on it and you’ll notice directly if they take a step or two, since they’ll simply ”fall off”.
Dogs that deliver fussily can be helped by sitting on a platform in front of their trainer when delivering (there will be a few such repetitions at the end of the video).
Using platforms – or any other target – allows you to work on casting in a clear manner. I personally prefer using food bowls when building chains in the directional work, but platforms might come in handy not least when training the push back. I don’t want to ruin my marked retrieves by having to stop my dog all the time, but I’ll send my dog on a ”yes” or ”ok” that means ”get going” after having shown him the platform at a distance. We’ll then stop at the platform and I’ll then proceed to push the dog back towards the next platform. The platforms become goals to reach for the dog and I can stop the dog both a bit before the platform and on it.
But the dog has to LOVE the platform first; otherwise the exercise will fall apart like a house of cards. The loving the platform part of the training can be done at home in the comfort of your own living room J
My dogs love all targets that I present and almost compete to get on them. I’ve initially rewarded them HEAVILY for getting on and being on the platform. I shape the behaviour. I can’t show you the beginning stages of training since that’s long ago, but in the beginning I click for the dog offering moving towards the platform and for each paw that gets on there. When the dog is on the platform, I reward heavily and then ask the dog to get off and shape it back on the platform. Pretty quickly the dog gets that all good things happen on the platform and I then withhold the reward until the dog is actually on the platform. I want my dog to throw himself back up on the platform as soon as I stop rewarding him off the platform.
I’ve built a platform that’s a bit on the large side for a spaniel, but I also use it in my classes where there are a great many retrievers. I’ve made it out of styrofoam, carpet and duct tape. I needed glue too. Even if the platform is kind of big, it’s light and easy to carry. Naturally you can use any material you have handy, Just make sure that the platform is stable!
In the video you’ll see Quling put his front feet on the floor a couple of times. We’ve been working on a contact behaviour for agility; a two on/two off which means that the two rear feet stay on the platform and the front feet are on the floor. But since that doesn’t pay off in this scenario, he soon quits offering that behaviour. That’s how shaping works – the dog does what pays off.
My dogs are happy to work for their food, so during this session they are working for their lunch. In the beginning stages of training there will be a lot of food or treats, and being able to use their food is beneficial. Otherwise, if my dog has had a lot of treats during training, I’ll simply give him a little less food that day.
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