Mat training is such a valuable behaviour. It gives your dog information that allows them to self regulate and calm. One of the best things is that it’s portable. You can take your dogs mat when you are out at a café, going on a picnic, visiting a friends house or during dog-friendly yoga at BEBT 🙂 When mat training is done properly it gives your dog a safe place that they associate with calm.
It also allows them to tell you when they need a break from kids, other dogs, or even you. Mat training using reward-based training gives your dog information on what you would like them to do, making training easier and more fun for both of you.
When mat training you want to break the final desired behaviour down into smaller achievable sections. If your dog isn’t doing what you want, then you’ve gone a step or two too far. Bring it back to something they know to get their confidence back up, take a break and then start again. We always want to set our dogs up for success. So take it easy and have some fun.
Check out these helpful clips and follow the steps below and discover the power of mat training.
Learning how to mat train:
- Reward for looking at the mat
- Reward for interacting with the mat (eg. sniffing)
- Reward for stepping on the mat (one, two, three or four paws)
- Reward for all paws on the mat only
- Reward for sitting on the mat
- Reward for laying on the mat
- Reward for settling on the mat (increased duration)
- Reward for staying on the mat while you move around or away
These are basic steps on how to increase rewarded behaviour during mat training. It is always a great idea to take steps back and play around with duration so your dog doesn’t just learn a pattern but they actually learn that they need to settle on the mat.
Adding the “free” cue:
Once your dog is happy to settle on the mat either in a sit or a lay it is a good time to introduce a “get off” cue, this gives them the information on when they can leave the mat. You can use “free”, or “off” or whatever your heart desires. Now you have this cue you can play around with duration on the mat, making it clear that they can only get off when the cue is given.
How to play around with duration:
Once you’ve got a stay on the mat you may mix it up and take a step away then reward, then take 5 steps away then reward and then take 3 steps away or even walk around the room, this means they aren’t learning that you get further away each time it just means that you go away and they stay.
Do the exact same thing when increasing duration, you might reward for 10 seconds on mat, then 40 seconds, then 5 seconds. Keeping the duration unpredictable but the behaviour very clear will set nice boundaries for your dog to understand.
Important- keep treating for duration. Never just expect your dog to stay on their mat. Keep it interesting, random rewards, kongs, bones. Make the mat so rewarding they want to stay there, even when they can leave.
Make it portable, but take a step back:
Remember, dogs aren’t great at generalising. This means that settling on their mat in the loungeroom, backyard or even kitchen are completely different behaviours and you will have to take a few steps back or even start at the beginning whenever you change the environment.
Also keep in mind how exciting the environment is, if you are at a café with people and other dogs this might be too exciting for them to calm on a mat just yet. Keep changing up your mat training environment at home and backyard or quiet park and build up to super stimulating environments.
When training always remember to give your dog a finish cue, this is like clocking out from work and it lets them know the training session is finished and they can just chill, wherever they want.
Good luck and please leave us some success stories on how mat training has helped improve you and your furbubs life (pics always welcome) 😊