Monday, February 10, 2014

Mat Training

After doing a lot of research I decided that I would work with Dobby on mat training. The purpose of mat training is to teach your dog a spot where they can settle down and relax. When the dog understands that they are expected to remain on the mat and stay calm, you can send the dog there when they are under foot, while you are eating or when company is over.

(yes, we're using a pink princess mat! It's all I could find when we started and he doesn't seem to mind)
If you search the internet for explanations of training the mat, you will find many guides that use clicker training. I haven't used clicker training with Dobby, so I had to modify the strategy to fit it to our training. Often I use the word "yes" as a marker similar to using the clicker as marker.
Patience is huge in training this command. It requires moving through baby steps at a fairly slow pace. I began our first sessions reward for every foot, stay, sit or even showing interest in the mat. I repeated this for our next two sessions.
In our fourth session I began to add the word "mat" whenever Dobby placed all four feet on his mat. Afterwards, I began using the word okay to get Dobby to come towards me and off the mat. Then I repeated the same sequence over and over again. Step on mat, say "mat" and give reward, say "okay" and reward when dogs come to you.
Once Dobby began to associate the word "mat" with being on the mat, I began to ask more of him before he received a reward. I added down because this is in the end what I wanted him to do on the mat. I would say "mat" and once he was on the mat I would ask for a down then reward. He quickly got the hang of it and began downing as soon as he got on the mat.
After he had achieved the desired behavior, I began asking for a stay while he was laying on the mat. I started in small time increments then with time lengthened the time requirement before giving an "okay" and reward. I also began adding a stay on the mat while our family eats dinner which is getting better with time. Dobby still tries to break his stay and see what he can get by begging. I have to fix it a lot but he's improving!
We also tried the other day at agility practice because training in as many places as possible is great for the dog. Dobby was able to stay on his mat while we set the course and then again while I walked the course. At the end of practice we decided to challenge him and see if he could remain on his mat when it was placed in front of tunnel and he was able to!
While it's taken a while, he has shown great progress and even chooses to eat his reward(a peanut butter stuffed Kong) on the mat. Have you tried training mat with your dog? Have any tips? We would love to hear them!
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  1. We do a lot of mat training in combination with the Relaxation Protocol. Ruby also has a pink mat :)

  2. we have worked mat training with a Manners Minder and loved it!!!

  3. What great success you have had! Veruca, our shepherd mix, uses a large dog bed instead of a mat. It doesn't transport well so I don't get the benefit of working on the training in other areas like you were able to do at the agility class.

  4. Your mat just blows our boring purple one out of the water :) We have to brush up on our mat skills - we have a pretty solid "that one" command where he'll go and balance or stand on whatever I point at (which started as mat training), then a "free" or "off" to exit. But I'd like a "go to place" where he associates the command with a specific location. Our real problem though are typical target discs... they look too much like frisbees, and they're often waved around while an instructor puts them in a location (emphasizing the "toy-ness" of the object). The frisbee is the highest-ever-reward and a point of *such* intensity for Mort - I know that is going to be a real training challenge :)