Mark for behavior, Reward for Position!
Reward placement is key in Spot training. The reward must be delivered so that the dog can maintain position on the spot. While that may seem entirely logical and clear, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to screw up. Fumble a cookie and the dog gets off the spot. Move your hand in the wrong direction and the dog will follow.
Reward placement can be used to your advantage though, and here’s how you can do that:
You can mark the crossing of the threshold and reinforce with a cookie dropped on the Spot. This will get the dog further onto the spot. You can mark each foot fall on the spot as the dog gets on and toss cookies so the dog has to get further onto the spot to eat them.
Tossing cookies is a great way to add value to the spot itself and to the action aspect of spot training.
You can and should also pay the dog from your hand as well. This will give you the opportunity to be very precise, and to control where the dog puts his head. Giving cookies from your hand also forces you to move around a bit, giving you the opportunity to generalize your position and movment, an important aspect of the skill.
When you want a Sit, mark eye contact and place the reward above the dog’s head, but don’t open up your hand until the butt hits the floor. Once that butt hits the floor, feed. When you want a Down, you can place the reward on the floor between the dogs feet with your hand closed then open it and allow the dog to eat it once their elbows are bending or on the floor.
Getting Off & Tossing Cookies
When you want the dog off, just give the off cue and toss a cookie. This will give the dog ample reason to get off the spot and set up another threshold learning opportunity. Where you throw the cookie will set up the next angle of approach, so pay attention to that and toss wisely.
You can toss cookies to your dog during the duration aspect of the Spot behavior, although you have to do a good job with placement.
Cultivating a hip flop from a down can be done by tossing your cookies into the area between your dog’s hip and their belly as they’re laying down. They will look down to find the cookie under their belly and will flop their hip.
You can also get a pretty solid down with the dog by tossing cookies into the area between your dog’s legs as they’re laying down. You’re aiming for the armpit. Set a few cookies into the armpit area and your dog will rock back and flop their hip.
Be really careful when you’re tossing cookies. Don’t make too many mistakes or duration will be a problem.
Dog Goes Where Reward Happens
Just remember that your dog is going to go where the reward happens. They will put their face where you put the cookie.