by Carmen LeBlanc, MS, ACAAB, CPDT

Key skills can help you work in peace from home

I recently watched a funny compilation of videos of various TV news and weather reporters creatively trying during the pandemic (like many of us) to carry on their work from home.

One after another, the clips showed pets — pestering, affectionate, cranky, bored, playful, barking, meowing pets — launching or sauntering into the poor reporters’ video shoot, much to their chagrin. Most were good natured about it, and they just reshot the scene or pushed on through the interruptions.

But some of these reporters also looked stressed, embarrassed or frustrated trying to get their job done while their pet stole the show. One remarked on air that he didn’t know what else to do. He couldn’t control his dog during video shoots, and if he locked the dog out of the room, it would whine and bark.

If you face these issues as well, two key skills can come to your rescue — station training (down-stay on a mat) and alone-time training (teaching pets to comfortably tolerate separation from you, even when you’re home). Fortunately, they’re related. Station training at its advanced stages can add in alone-time training if you need it.

Here’s what beginning station training looks like:

After that you keep adding gradually more challenging set-up distractions and then distance (your distance from the dog). During distance practice, you can start to disappear from the room — for one second at first, then return to reward your dog. To progress, practice building up the time you’re out of sight.

Animal trainers work through 3 D’s in station training:

  • Duration:  the length of time you teach your dog to down-stay quietly on his mat. Generally, once you’re up to 20 seconds for one treat, you’re ready for distractions. 
  • Distractions:  your and others’ noises and activities, TV and music, kitchen food prep and cooking, talking on the phone, dancing and singing (I like practicing the Chicken Dance) — are just a few distractions you can introduce. Easier at first then gradually more intense.
  • Distance: teaching your dog that stay still means stay even though you’re moving away, and eventually even leaving your dog in another room.

Station training is a super useful skill for every dog and cat owner that can also be used when visitors arrive, when you’re cooking (how about down-stay OUT of the kitchen!), or when on your phone or computer — and even when you’re shooting video scenes that aren’t supposed to include your charming pet! 

Keep in mind that the best results come with professional guidance — since every technique is adjusted to the individual learners, you and your dog. Call Way To Behave! for in-home personal training, 541-400-0738.