Pedestal Training & Touch Pads to Improve Focus, Drive, and Precision


 Pedestal Training seminar presented by

Kyra Sundance

Stunt Dog Trainer, Performer, Author



Dolphins, circus animals, horses, dogs, birds, and almost every species of human-trained animal is trained with the use of pedestals or touch pads.

The pedestal is used to:

  • Build Distance
  • as a Reward
  • as a Penalty
  • as a Time-Out for distracted/ low-working dogs
  • as an NRM
    (No Reward Marker)
  • and to manage Multiple Dogs




What is it?

There are four variations of Pedestal Training:

  • Pedestal Training
  • Platform Training
  • Perch Work
  • Touch Pads

Following is a brief overview of each of these variations, and then later in the presentation we will discuss each one in more detail.

Pedestal Training [brief overview]

A pedestal is a raised box of some sort which the dog recognizes as his home base.

  • Used to quiet the dog
  • Used as a default location (or "home base") for the dog

Platform Training [brief overview]

A platform is a low box which the dog sits or stands upon. Rather than one home base, in platform training there are typically multiple platforms, none of which has priority over the other.

  • Platforms are used to teach precice body position (as in musical freestyle)
  • Platforms are used to teach directional casting (as in retrieving competition)

Perch Work/ Brick Work [brief overview]

A tiny stool small enough that the dog can fit only his front paws upon it.

  • Used to teach hind-end awareness (coordination with the back feet)
  • Used to teach heel position

Touch Pads/ Marks [brief overview]

Flat objects which the dog touches with one or both front paws.

  • Used to teach a dog to go to a mark (useful in Animal Acting)
  • Used to control the dog's movement





In this section we will discuss Pedestal Training

All Species are Trained with Pedestals

Dolphins, circus animals, horses, dogs, birds, and almost every species of human-trained animal is trained with the use of pedestals. Pedestals Improve Focus, Distance, and Work Ethic




Pedestals Create a Focused Mind


Pedestals Create a Focused Mind


Pedestal Training Goal:

  • Animal stands quietly on the pedestal until released
  • To be able to send the animal to any pedestal, at liberty (no lead)



Pedestal Training Benefits:

  • A radical change in a animal’s ability to stand quietly and also to focus.
  • “Quiet feet equal a focused mind.”
  • A dog becomes willing to stand quietly. His attention span is increased as he learns to focus on the handler and await the next cue.

“Quiet Feet Equal a Focused Mind.”

The main use of pedestals is to quiet the dog (which is a prerequisite for focus).

  • Prior to any kind of training, the handler must have the attention and also respect of his animal. It is much easier to get that attention when the animal’s feet are still. Quiet feet equal a focused mind.
  • Dogs, like children, have a hard time just being still, especially if they don’t understand the reason for not moving. A pedestal helps the animal to stay in place until released. It is his “mark”.
  • With pedestals, we can cause the dog’s feet to be still and his mind to focus. Once a dog can be taught to stay in a particular spot or position, it can then be asked to proceed to the next task.
  • A dog becomes willing to stand quietly. His attention span is increased as he learns to focus on the handler and await the next cue.

Pedestal Training benefits a dog psychologically, and helps him be confident yet compliant

  • Pedestals serve as a place, or a “mark,” for the dog and give him a home base from which to work and await a command or cue.
  • Pedestal work help increases self-confidence and channeled boldness. Dogs love to stand on pedestals because it makes them taller, which increases their confidence.
  • By taking away his options for movement, he becomes more relaxed. A relaxed and confident dog is in a mind set to learn.

Pedestal Training Helps to Instill Willing Obedience

  • Dogs can benefit greatly from the utilization of the “Stay” or “Whoa” command. Pedestal training adds a new measure of reliability and interest to dog education in controlling his energy and giving the dog a place to stay.
  • The pedestal becomes a release of pressure. In pedestal training, the trick becomes the reward.



Constructing a Pedestal

Constructing a Pedestal

The pedestall should be:

  • sturdy
  • of an appropriate size (I prefer them small, to confine the dog)
  • an appropriate height (not too short or the dog will be tempted to jump off)
  • with a non-slip or rubber top.


Sturdy wooden box
Metal, horse water bucket, available from feed stores. Glue rubber matting on top.
Plyometric boxes. They are very heavy, and very stable. They can be quite pricey.
An agility Pause Table is good, but can be a little large. I prefer a smaller size to confine the dogs' movements.
A raised dog bed such as a Kakadu bed.
A commercial horse pedestal.
An inflateable donut by FitPaws.
A 75cm fitness ball in a horse water bucket.
It's not easy to stand on the ball, and it requires the dog to utilize stabilization muscles. They have to work hard to stay on the ball. They have to concentrate on it.



Teaching the Pedestal

Teaching the Pedestal:

  1. Teach “Paws Up” (With some dogs it works well to place the pedestal in a corner or along a wall or safe fence to prevent the dog from evading it.)
  2. Teach “Step Up” (4 paws up) verbal and physical cue. Send dog sideways (don’t pull toward you) as this will later become the send-away.
  3. Add value to pedestal (by giving treats when dog is on it)
  4. Run the dog to it to add a sense of urgency

Teaching the Pedestal (part 2):

  1. Teach the dog a cue for dismounting the pedestal such as “off”. He is to dismount the pedestal only when cued to do so. If he does dismount before he is released, send him back up.
  2. Instead of a release word, you may teach a release touch (on back of neck).
  3. Add distance, duration, distractions

Pedestal work helps to develop physical dexterity in puppies while increasing their self-confidence and channeled boldness.

Puppies love to stand on pedestals because it makes them taller than usual, and taller than other dogs/animals, which increases their confidence.

When teaching puppies, click (mark) for interaction with the pedestal

Intentionally click different interactions, so the puppy learns to offer behaviors

Use different surfaces

Pedestals are used in horse trick training.

Trick horses begin pedestal training on day-one of a new foal’s life. As the foal progresses, it learns to wait patiently on the pedestal, either to get back in the stall with its mother, or for the next request from the handler.

Photo courtesy of Imagine a Horse.


Teaching the dog to "Stay" on the pedestal

Hallmarks of training any animal include:

  1. Drawing the animal to the handler
  2. Asking the animal to remain (stay) at a particular spot
  3. And then to execute other taught behaviors

Perhaps the most important taught behavior in animal training is the stay command. When an animal can be taught to stay in a particular spot or position it can then be asked to proceed to the next task.

Pedestal training adds a new measure of reliability and interest to dog education in controlling his energy and giving the dog a place to stay.

Use Pedestals to Build Distance for “Stay”

Teach your dog to “Stay,” even when your back is turned and you are walking around. He is more likely to remain in his Stay on a pedestal, than on the ground.



Use Pedestals to Build Duration

Use Pedestals to Build Duration

Put the dog on a pedestal and reward (mark) him for continuted attention. He is more likely to continue attention when his feet aret on the pedestal (as his feet will be quiet).


Use Pedestals to teach Freestyle Positions

We let the platform create the precise position in the dog.

Work on all 4 foundation positions of the pedestal:

  • Left Side Heel
  • Right Side Heel
  • Facing Handler’s Front
  • Facing Handler’s Back

This habituates the dog to “seeing themselves” in each position. It also teaches them to turn their head and neck toward the handler in each position

Then use 2 platforms, one on either side, or front/back, and have dog switch between the two.

This was a photoshoot that I did with my puppy "Jadie". I taught her to "hold" an object by placing her on a pedestal. If I had tried to teach "hold" while she was on the floor, she would have been puppy-squirming too much. The pedestal quiets her feet.




Use Pedestals to Build Distance

Pedestals to Build Distance for Behaviors

We use distance behaviors for animal actors, freestyle, and "down at a distance" in obedience.

Distance behaviors for horses

Use Pedestals to teach a dog to Increase Distance

Teach obedience "go-outs" by sending the dog to a pedestal.

Teach dog to back up by laying a board on the floor, and teaching the dog to back up 6-inches until he is on the board. Gradulally move the board farther away.



Use Pedestals as a Reward

Use the Pedestal as a Reward

In horse training, the horse is taught that the pedestal is a break from working (lungeing). In this way the trick has become the reward.


Use the Pedestal as a Reward

  • Releasing the dog to the pedestal becomes a reward (either it is a break from work, as with the horse, or it is an opportunity for a treat)
  • Add value to pedestal by using it to deliver treat after click
  • After a click, the dog could still be denied the treat. The click is an “opportunity” for reward






Use Pedestals as a time-out for distracted dogs

Pedestals as a time-out for distracted/ low-working dogs

The dog should be either working well, or on his pedestal. Do not allow the dog to wander. This way, the work becomes a reward (as sitting on the pedestal is boring). If the dog is not working with motivation, then send him to his pedestal for a while. If the dog becomes distracted, then send him to his pedestal for a while. He only gets two choices: work well, or sit on your pedestal.



Use pedestals as a penalty

Pedestals as a Penalty

A pedestal can be used as a "penalty box" when the dog does something wrong (such as chase a squirrel, or jump on you). It is a penalty merely because the dog is now delayed in getting any rewards/treats.



Use Pedestals as an NRM

Pedestals as an NRM (No Reward Marker)

Non-aversive way to mark incorrect behavior.

Use the Pedestal as an NRM in order to discourage sloppiness.

Example: with the shell game, the dog is supposed to dilligently sniff each pail, and then indicate the one hiding the treat. Often dogs get impatient and sloppy, and start just knocking pails over, or indicate the first pail that they see. If your dog does something sloppy like this, send him to his pedestal. You're not telling him that he's "wrong", but merely making him take a break and start all over. This is a delay in his reward. He will learn to be more careful in his selection the next time.



Use Pedestals to manage multiple dogs

Pedestals Manage Multiple Animals

There is no way you could manage multiple tigers withouth pedestals.

Pedestals with multiple dogs

  • The pedestal is better than a crate because the dog is doing something, and not prevented from participating
  • Create consistency by setting up the dogs on the pedestals in the same order (so the same dog is always on the left).
  • Start with simple hand-touch exercises while both dogs are on their pedestals. They need to learn that they will get their turn. Next, call one dog off the pedestal, do a nose-touch, send him back to the pedestal, reward him, and call the next dog.
  • Each dog's name is his release (or neck touch)
  • If you are working with one dog, and the other dog jumps off his pedestal without being released, your priority is to deal with the offending dog.





In this section we will discuss Platform Training. Platforms are used to teach the dog to be in a certain position, or go in a certain direction.

Platform Training for Directional Casting.

In the sport of Field Retrieving, the handler directs his dog to run toward the downed bird by using directional casting arm signals.

Four training platforms are set up and the dog is sent to one of them via arm signal.

Start teaching Directional Casting with two raised pedestals. Send your dog to one or the other.
Later, add a third platform behind the dog, to teach him to run away from you.

Directional Casting for SAR Dogs

Search & Rescue: SAR dogs must demonstrate the ability to follow directional casting arm signals and be directed to elevated platforms which are 25 yards apart.

Barrel Training for Whoa

Hunting: used to teach “whoa”. The dog is steadied on a barrel to keep him from moving.

Agility Pause Table

Agility: the “pause table” obstacle is a platform. Touch pads are used at the bottom of contact obstacles. (More about Touch Pads later in this presentation).

Platforms for Animal Actors

In this photo, my Weimaraner "Chalcy" was shot doing this mid-air leap. She was actually jumping from platform to platform.

Platforms for Animal Actors

Teach a platform jump by placing a bar jump between the two platforms, to discourage the dog from jumping to the ground.


Mat Training / Spot Training

Mat Training / Spot Training

Spot training is when the dog goes to and remains on his spot (which can be simply his dog bed).

Pet Trainers use pedestals as a creative solution to problem behaviors.

For shy dogs, a pedestal gives the dog somewhere to go, rather than to act out on his flight instinct. Pedestal work increases self-confidence and boldness. The dog stays on his spot and awaits his next cue. His pedestal is his personal space where he receives praise, treats, or an appreciated time out.

Manners & Self-Control: (Also called “spot training” or "place training"). The dog goes to and remains on his spot (which can be his dog bed). Spot training is used during dinner time, or when visitors arrive, as a way to keep the dog still and under control. It is the dog's safe spot to go to, stay and relax.


Dogs are taught to stay on their mat.

Mat Training for Moving Drop

The moving drop is a skill taught for Obedience and Schutzhund competition. The dog is running toward you, and upon your command, drops to a "down" position.

We use a Mat to teach the moving drop. The Mat is placed halfway between the dog and yourself, and serves as a visual mark for the dog to lie down on.






In this section we will discuss Perch Work

Perch: Hind-End Awareness

Perch work teaches the dog to be aware of the placement of his rear feet and to build his hind-end and lateral strength. This exercise is commonly used in agility and in musical canine freestyle.

When a dog is mounted on the perch with his front feet, ask him to yield the hindquarters or “circle” as his front feet remain anchored. Gradually increase the number of lateral steps until he can completely circle the hindquarters around the pedestal. With his front feet anchored on the pedestal, the request will be easy for him to understand.

He can also be taught to step the front feet down and walk them around the hind end that is on the pedestal.

Perch: Heel Position

As the handler rotates around the perch, the dog learns to pivot his body and find the correct heel position alongside his handler’s left leg.

Also used for “front”





In this section we will discuss Touch Pads

Some ways Touch pads are used:

  • Teaching Jump Collections
  • Agility contact obstacles
  • Animal Actors (go to mark)
  • Musical Canine Freestyle (teach backing up)
How to make a Touch Pad

How to Make a Touch Pad

Piece of non-slip rubber.

Don't use a frisbee, or the dog will try to pick it up. Use something very flat.

FitPaws inflateable discs
"Hit It" Boards
How to teach Touch Pads

Teaching Touch Pads

  • The first step in teaching any dog touch pads is to provide a raised target for the dog to run to.
  • The reason for this is that it is very obvious when the dog has to put his feet up on a raised touch pad. As training progresses, we add an additional flat touch pad on top of the raised touch pad with the intention of eliminating the raised touch pad. In the end, our goal will be for the dog to go from one flat touch pad to another flat touch pad.

Animal Actors

Dog actors are rewarded for placing their paws on a small mark on set.

Dogs are taught to go to that mark and stay.

Using Touch Pads to train the Send Away

Flyball is also a type of touch pad.
Dogrobatics uses cones as touch pads.

Schutzhund object guard

The dog is taught to keep his feet on the touch pad (in this case, the suitcase).

Jump Rope is taught by first teaching the dog to jump and stay on his touch pad.
Touch Pads are used at the bottom of agility contact obstacles to teach the dog to stop at the bottom.
Touch pads are used to control the spot where a dog collects himself for a jump. This is used to fix takeoff problesm.

Triggering a Mark

Example: I teach my dogs to walk forward on a barrel (which causes the barrel to roll away from me). Dogs are reluctant to roll away from me (as I have the treats). Using a clicker to click distance is not very effective. It is much more effective to put a mat covering a squeaker a distance away. The squeaker acts as the Mark, signifying that the dog earned his reward. For some reason, it is much more effective to have this mark noise come from the distant location than from my location.

Flying Disc Back Vault

A towel on my back becomes the Touch Pad that the dog jumps to.


Flying Disc Foot Stall

This is commonly taught by screwing some old shoes to a square board, and wearing the shoes. The board is used as a touch pad.

Conformation Show

Stacking can be taught by teaching the dog to place his paws on two or four touch pads. These are called Show Stackers.

Doggie Doorbell

Here, my dogs were taught to step on a doggie doorbell using the Touch Pad concept.




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