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ARF! Training

Be Dog Happy training tips are ARF! - Always Relationship Focused. For more ARF! Training tips, check out our ARF! Training archives.

Having a dog that will eagerly go to his mat and patiently stay is a skill that really comes in handy. If you’re training two dogs, it is obvious that having one wait while the other is working is helpful (trust me, it gets a little hairy otherwise!). But there are some practical applications of being able to send your dog to their mat. For example, if Princess is an exuberant greeter of guests, you can send her to her mat so that folks can calmly get in the door. Or, if Fido barks at the mailman, UPS, FedEx, dogs walking by, people walking by, squirrel taunting them… sending him to the mat is a good redirection.

Remember, the mat has no meaning or value to your dog so you have to give it some value. Before you put the mat down, be prepared to reward your dog for any interest at all in the mat. Most dogs, once you put the mat down, will either look at it, and/or go over to check it out – that’s a freebie for you to reward them and you don’t want to miss that. Click (or, if not using a clicker, say “yes!”) and treat for any interest.

Think about it from a dog’s point of view. You set something down and he checks it out. You have no reaction so he figures, nothing going on here, and leaves it alone. That makes it much more difficult to get him interested in checking out the mat a second time. Take advantage of your dog’s initial curiosity and reward that first look/sniff/etc.

Also, don’t do all three steps at once. Spread it out and have fun. Do step 1 for about five minutes one day and then in the next day or two, put the mat down and see if your dog goes to it on their own. If they do, reward that and go to step 2. Work on step 2 for about five minutes and stop. The next day or two, see if your dog remembers how to do step 2 and if they do, go to step 3.

Interested in teaching your pooch to find the mat and wait there until they’re told to leave? Here’s how:

Step 1: Building value for the mat

Put down the mat (or whatever you want to use for your dog’s place to go to, like a towel, yoga mat, dog bed, etc.) and click and treat for any interest your dog shows in the mat. It is important that you place the treat on the mat after you click. Eating his treat off the mat will help make the mat important to your dog.

Here’s Grady demonstrating step 1:

Step 2: Finding the mat

Once your dog has learned that the mat has value (and therefore worth some attention!), then you want to work on encouraging your dog to go find the mat. At this step you do not tell the dog to go find the mat.

Here’s what you do:

  1. You put down the mat and the dog goes to it because you’ve already done a brilliant job of teaching him the mat has value!
  2. You click or say “Yes!” when any part of your dog’s body is on the mat.
  3. You toss the treat away from the mat (make sure your dog sees you toss the treat).
  4. Your dog gets his treat and runs back to the mat.
  5. You click and toss the treat away from the mat.
  6. Repeat several times until your dog is eagerly running back to his mat.

Grady kindly demonstrating step 2:

Step 3: Finding the mat and waiting

At this step you want to begin sending your dog from a distance to the mat and they wait until told to leave.

The steps are:

  1. Have your dog close to you, facing the mat.
  2. Dog runs to the mat and stops on the mat.
  3. You click and walk over and treat your dog while the dog is on the mat (put the treat on the mat).
  4. Toss the treat so that your dog leaves the mat.
  5. While your dog is running to get the treat, you move somewhere different and, after your dog eats his treat, call him to you.
  6. Repeat step 1-5.
  7. Once your dog is consistently going to the mat, you can add your verbal cue. I say “mat” but you can use any other word.

Grady, showing step 3:


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