A sleeping bag gives your dog a warm and safe resting place, regardless of where you are. The goal is to have the dog relax well and lay calmly when it is in the sleeping bag. This you should train before going out for a trip, hunting or using the bag as a dog bed in the office.
Some dogs figure it out right away, while others need a bit more time to understand that the sleeping bag means resting. Éloïse Willems, who is competing in obedience on the highest level and works as a dog instructor, has some useful tips for training it:
This is how you can teach your dog to lay still in its sleeping bag:
- Pack it out together with your dog. Let it sniff and examine the bag while you are folding it out.
- Open the sleeping bag completely and fold it out. Place the bag between you and your dog. Say “good” and reward your dog several times when it is standing on the bag.
- Throw a treat away from the sleeping bag, move yourself away a bit and repeat this stage several times. After a while your dog will understand that it is going on the sleeping bag that is being rewarded.
- When the dog is stepping on the sleeping bag itself you can allure it to lay down. You can also use a command. If your dog does not know this already you can say “lay down” when the dog is doing it. Reward it several times for laying. Throw a treat away from the sleeping bag and repeat the process.
- Lay and stay: increase the amount of steps you are taking while the dog is laying. You should be able to easily take a round around the dog, stand or sit in peace while the dog is resting there or go a bit further away.
- Lay down command from distance: this you need if your dog is standing up in the sleeping bag while you are out on a trip.
- Get your dog used to having the sleeping bag over it and to the sound of the zipper. Reward it every time you put the bag over it in the beginning, or when you are making sounds with the zipper.
- Teach your dog to go through the sleeping bag. Open the bag on both ends and lure the dog through the bag with a treat. Reward the dog while it is standing in the bag and then lure it out of the sleeping bag again. When the dog goes through it by itself without hesitating you can go on to the next level.
- Take the sleeping bag with you to many different environments and practice stage 8 there.
- Now you are ready!
Every dog is different, and some can have problems with one or several of the stages along the way.
- If your dog is scared to be closed in the sleeping bag, divide the training into as small parts as possible so that the dog improves all the time and feels comfortable. If the dog is backing out when you are putting the sleeping bag over it, find the stage where it still stays laying, reward then and continue so slowly that the dog does not realize that you are going forward, says Éloïse.
If the dog cannot lay calmly in its place, she is recommending to train lay and stay when the dog is tired, without the sleeping bag.
- When they manage to lay for a few minutes without being rewarded with a treat you can do the same training with the sleeping bag. The easiest way to train lay and stay is to reward frequently in the beginning, when the dog is laying. Afterwards you increase gradually the time between treats, distance and distractions.
A rule to remember is not to reward the dog when it just got up and laid down again. If the dog stands up tell it to lay down or lure it to do so and go back to the stage where you were before it stood up. If the dog managed it, you reward it and then increase the difficulty right after.
- If the dog jumps out of the sleeping bag when you are out on a trip you should have a leash on, and the dog in the sleeping bag close to you. If you know that the dog`s needs are covered and it will sleep, ask them to lay down and praise them if they are listening.