a photograph of a black Labrador sitting on a red mat inside a home this represents a blog about mat training for dogs

Training Your Dog to Go to and Stay on a Mat or "Place"

Teaching your dog to go to a mat is a wonderful way for your dog to relax while guests enter and visit your home, at times when you need a break, and when you visit public places with your dog. When guests come over, it's natural for our dogs to become excited and sometimes even anxious. By teaching them to go to their mat, we provide them with a designated space where they can feel calm and secure. This not only helps to manage their behavior but also ensures a pleasant experience for our guests. Similarly, when we need a break, whether it's to take a phone call, do some work, or simply relax, having our dog settle on a mat can give us the space and peace of mind we need. And when it comes to visiting public places, having our dog go to a mat can help create boundaries and prevent them from getting into trouble.

Mat training is one of the first behaviors I always recommend when I am working with young or very active dogs. Some dogs are constantly on the move, always seeking stimulation and interaction. They may not understand how to relax and settle on their own. By teaching them to go to a mat and settle, we are giving them the opportunity to learn how to rest and be calm. This can be especially beneficial for high-energy breeds or dogs with a lot of drive. Once they understand that going to a mat leads to a calm and pleasant experience, they start choosing to do so voluntarily instead of engaging in unwanted behaviors like jumping or barking. Mat training can also be helpful for older dogs who may be experiencing discomfort or pain and need a comfortable spot to rest.

We can begin teaching a dog to go to a mat and settle at any age, regardless of breed or activity level. The process involves shaping the behavior gradually, using positive reinforcement techniques. Initially, we can simply reward our dog for approaching the mat. As they become comfortable with it, we can start asking them to step onto the mat, then to lie down, and finally to settle and relax. Positive reinforcement, such as treats or praise, can be used to reinforce the desired behavior. It's important to be patient and consistent during the training process and to make the mat a positive and comfortable space for our dog. With practice and consistency, going to a mat can become a default behavior for our dog, leading to more relaxation and less stress in various situations.

Some tips to get you started on training your dog to go to a mat:

1. Select a flat, slip proof mat (a short pile rug or a yoga mat cut to fit your dog's size are great choices).
2. Have some delicious treats on hand.
3. Lay the mat down and reward your dog for showing ANY interest in it. This can be simply walking over to it, sniffing it or stepping on it. 
4. Continue to reward your dog for interest in the mat for a few "sessions".
5. Next, stop rewarding for interest and only reward for your dog stepping on the mat.
6. Once your dog enjoys stepping on the mat, only reward for them stepping ALL the way on the mat and so on....until they begin to relax and eventually lay down! 

​Visit our train page to learn more about mat training!


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