Settling on a mat or a dog bed is a fantastic skill that every dog should learn. Ideally you want to teach this to a puppy as soon as you bring him home, but even an old dog can learn a new trick and become a master at staying on his mat. By following the simple steps outlined in this article, your dog will be patiently waiting on his mat in no time.
Advantages Of The Behavior
It is very convenient to be able to tell your dog “Go to your bed and stay there for now.” When your dog is in the kitchen while you’re cooking and you are worried about him getting underfoot; when visitors are coming to your house; when you want to settle in at night and watch TV; or when you take your dog to a park or the beach: “Go to mat” will always come in handy.
It is a lot nicer for your dog to simply go to relax on a mat when told, rather than having to go to a crate every time. Stick with this training and you will thank yourself soon that you taught your dog this behavior.
First of all, you want to choose a mat or bed that your dog already likes. You will make the training process much shorter and easier if you pick a mat that is comfortable and inherently inviting for your dog.
Next, pick a time of the day when your dog is naturally calm. You do not want to start trying to teach him a stationary behavior when all he wants is to romp around and play.
Take a bunch of treats, lure him onto his mat and ask him to lie down. Then deliver a lot of treats (at least 5-10) in the position. Lure him off the mat and repeat the process.
The more you reward your dog in the correct position on the mat, the better he will understand that this is the “place to be.” The most common mistake owners make at this point in the teaching process is that they rush their dogs too much and spend too little time rewarding them in the correct position. In order to make it very clear to your dog how much you appreciate him being on his mat, you need to be very generous and patient when rewarding him.
Once your dog is good at going to and settling on his mat when you are close by, try standing a little farther away and sending him to his mat from there. This is not going to happen in a single day — building distance for behaviors is one of the aspects of dog training that can take time. Start out by sending your dog from 1 foot away, then 2 ft. away, 3 ft. away etc.
Every time he is successful, praise him profusely and deliver many treats to him.
Take Her To Different Places
Dogs are very situational learners, which means that they will associate the behaviors they learned heavily with the setting they learned them in. If you only ever practice settling on the mat in your living room, your dog will be really great at doing it in the living room, but possibly nowhere else. By taking your mat to different places, he will show you what he has learned in all locations.
Start out by practicing in different rooms of your house, and eventually advance to your front yard, back yard, and taking your mat on the road: to parks, neighbors’ houses, coffee shops that allow dogs, etc.
A Word At The End…
As with all dog training, you need to be patient and encouraging towards your dog during the process. Remember that he does not know what you are teaching him, it is his first time learning and he is always trying his best.