Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) - Lap
Updated: Feb 8
Service dogs must be trained in certain behaviors to help their specific disabled partner. If the behavior is triggered with a command (visual or verbal), it’s called a “task.” If the behavior is triggered via an environmental cue (a sound, a change in the partner’s body, etc.), it’s called “work.”
This is part of a series on various service dog tasks/work behaviors, their purpose, and how to train them. You can find a glossary of terms here and the whole list of behaviors covered (so far) here.
There are so many behaviors and ways to train those behaviors, but I hope to cover the most important ones. If I’ve missed something, please let me know!
Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) – Lap
Deep pressure therapy can be used for many things, though the most common is grounding and helping bring their partner back from an anxiety attack, a dissociative episode, or something similar. Depending on the size of the dog and how much pressure a person wants, this can appear many different ways.
A smaller dog may jump into their partner’s lap and sit or lay there. A larger dog may put their front paws in their person’s lap. Any size dog may put their chin on a body part of their handler (leg, foot, arm).
So, the two main behaviors that are trained for DPT are Lap and Chin. In order to train a dog how to perform the task Lap, follow the below steps. Mark (clicker or “yes”) and reward for correct responses and only move onto the next step when the previous one is consistent and reliable.
1) Sit in a chair or on a couch and have your dog standing next to you.
2) Pat your leg excitedly and use excited (fast, higher-pitched) sounds to encourage your dog to jump up onto your leg/lap. Mark, reward, then release.
a. You can lure (use a treat in front of their nose) to encourage them to get up onto your lap, if necessary.
b. If your dog simply won’t jump up, get them up on a chair or couch next to you and encourage them to get onto your lap from there first. Then, once they’re consistent, try it with them on the ground first.
3) When they jump up (either front paws or whole body) consistently, lure your dog into a laying position (either laying down on your lap or legs flat across your lap).
4) Next, we add the cue “Lap” (or another word, if you prefer). Say the word first, then encourage them to get up into position.
a. If you’ve been using a lure, at this point, you want to start trying to get them to do the behavior without it.
b. If necessary, ask for the behavior, wait a couple seconds, then lure up into your lap.
5) Start weaning them off treats. Reward them only for quick/good responses.
a. If they haven’t received a treat in 5 tries, reward for less perfect results until they get better. You want to move slowly and make sure they are still receiving rewards every once in a while.
6) Start asking for longer times staying in place. Start with only a couple of seconds before rewarding, then slowly extend the time.
a. While working on duration, make sure to reward for random amounts of time, with the general amount increasing. So, for example, you’d reward (and release) after 2 seconds, then 4 seconds, then 2 seconds, then 1 second, then 3 seconds, then 5 seconds, etc.