Teaching your dog to go to a mat or “place” (you pick the word!) is a great way to get him to a certain spot and have him settle. This is one of the very first things I teach a dog. If a dog can settle on a mat you can take that mat anywhere and in turn, have your dog settle anywhere.
“Go to your mat” is a type of targeting behavior. We want the dog to go to a small mat, bed, rug or towel, lie down on it, and stay until released. This same technique can be used to teach you dog to go to a stationary spot (bed, kennel, etc) too but when teaching “go to your mat” the “mat” is not a location; rather it is a moveable target. You should be able to transfer your “mat” to any location.
Teaching “Go to your mat”:
- Step 2-3 feet away from the mat and toss a treat onto the mat. When your dog goes after it and steps onto the mat click and treat (C/T). You can C/T 2-3 more times when he is on the mat.
*Your arm outstretched tossing a treat and pointing in the direction of the rug becomes your hand signal for the cue.
- Continue to lure your dog on and off of the mat with a treat. When hits the mat, click and treat (C/T). If your dog goes into positions (sit or down) quickly, have him do the position and the C/T. If he is slower, don’t worry about the position, just C/T for him hitting the mat. Release your dog from the mat with “ok” each time. Make hitting the mat a fun game! Repeat 8-10 times.
- If your dog does not go to the mat on his own go back to step 1.
- Once your dog is consistently going to the mat, looking for a treat and lying down or sitting on his own, you can add the “go to your mat” cue as he is on his way to the mat.
- Now start taking one step back or to the side, return to your starting position and C/T. Increase distance, always returning and C/T your dog for staying on the mat. Increase the difficulty by dancing around, waving your arms etc. and then returning to your dog on the the mat and C/T
- As with all of your training, make this a fun game! The mood should be light, not “commanding” because well, how much fun is that (for either one of you). Play games by moving away; gradually increasing distance or duration (time) and then come back and treat.
Another way to teach “Go to your mat” quickly is by free-shaping the behavior by using your clicker. Simply click and treat anytime your dog goes over to his mat. Just watch him figure it out and offer up his mat position!
Like having your dog hang out with you at coffee shops, breweries (I’m in Seattle folks!) and outdoor field games? Try playing the “Add-A-Count” game to help him relax in those environments (and home too). Super easy, check it out!