Stationing or platform training is a skill often used in dog training, zoos, or aquariums. It is an important skill for even puppies to learn. Station training is similar to teaching a stay or wait in a specific area. For puppies, use slightly elevated stations so they do not need to jump on or off the platform. A homemade wooden square about three inches off the ground works well. Plastic or wooden platforms can also be purchased.
Stationing is a life skill. Once your dog understands this behavior, the station or platform is a place to put their leash and collar on or off, for grooming, to wait while the door is open, or to have their muddy feet wiped. Puppies who learn to wait on platforms also quickly learn to step on a scale at the veterinary clinic and stay on a grooming table.
To teach this skill, break the behavior down into these parts:
- Step on the platform.
- Walk or run to the platform.
- Stay on the platform.
- Get off the platform.
Begin by staying near the platform and lure your puppy to put a paw on the platform. Some puppies may be cautious at first. Go at their pace and make sure the platform is secure, nonslip, and large enough for them to stand or sit on comfortably. Reinforce the smallest effort of walking towards the platform by offering a high-value treat until, eventually, they put all four paws on the station.
Once they can comfortably stand on the platform, feed multiple treats in a row, one after the other, slowly lengthening the time that they are on the platform. Increase time slowly because even a few seconds are long for your puppy.
Next, walk or run with your puppy to the platform and feed them when they get there. Make this a fun game. With each repetition, reinforce for one, two, three, and then all four paws on the platform. Once they have successfully gone to the platform and can stay there for a few seconds, add a cue.
Before moving with your dog toward the platform, give the cue such as, “Go to your spot!” or “Platform”. Then, go to the platform and give a few treats once your dog is on the station.
After a few successful repetitions, say the cue and pause, then run to the platform. Your puppy will begin to go to the platform after hearing the cue without you running with them. Follow them to the platform and reward them in position. Slowly increase the duration they stay on the platform by increasing the interval between treats. Once they have learned to stay on the platform, teach a release to indicate that stationing is finished. While luring them off or tossing a treat, use a verbal cue such as, “All done!” or “The end”.
Here are a few tips for successful station training with your puppy:
- Keep training sessions under two minutes with your puppy, and be sure to keep the training upbeat.
- Be generous with small, high-value treats, and keep a positive attitude as you train.
- Before adding other handling activities, make sure your puppy is comfortable with that task off the platform. Do not add anything scary while on the platform; otherwise, the platform will be scary, too.
- When adding any handling or other behaviors for stationing, make sure your puppy has mastered staying on the platform until released. As you add another handling activity, decrease the time and be generous with treats.