Let’s talk about Magic Mats! Whether you call it “Place” or “Go to Bed” or something else, having a designated spot for your dog has a number of benefits.
It can be a nice safe spot for your dog when you’re on a picnic, or give your dog a place to go when you’re cooking. We love using a mat as a way to keep our dogs out of trouble! So how do we teach it?
STEP 1: Make the mat magic.
Start by putting great treats on the mat- it’s magic! Good stuff happens on the mat. Every once in a while, toss treats on there for your dog to find. You'll start to see them wagging their tails when they see it, because it's associated with such yummy treats! You can see some of our Puppy Class students working on it here.
STEP 2: Teach your dog to get on the mat.
Now we want to get your dog to go to their mat on cue. When your dog gets on the mat (or maybe just puts a paw on it), click and treat- but toss the treat off the mat. This way your pup has to leave the mat and come back. Once they come back to the mat, click and treat again! Repeat until your pup is flying back to the mat after each treat.
STEP 3: Name the cue.
When you're 90% sure your puppy will return immediately to the mat after a treat, you can start to name the cue. Just as your puppy is heading to the mat, say your cue. Basically, you're saying the cue right before they hit the mat, as though it were on cue already! Do this on repeat until they associate the word with the behavior.
STEP 4: Work on distance.
Once your pup is able to go to their mat on cue, it's time to get them going there from a distance. First, try it from just a few inches further away- remember, your dog needs time to learn that their cue means "go over to your mat, from wherever you are" instead of "sit on this thing in front of me." Take your time, and practice from lots of spots!
You can use different mats for this! You can use a raised bed or a towel or dog bed or anything like that. You can use different words for different spots, if you'd like!
Bringing a mat to other places is a great idea. If your dog already loves their mat, bring it with you to a patio, friend's house, etc!
Send your pup to their mat when you need them to not be underfoot! It's also a great place for giving enrichment items.