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by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Teaching "On Your Mat"

Teaching "Go to place", "On your Mat", "go to bed", or any other term you choose that tells your dog to "settle" on a special bed, towel, mat or rug, preferably one that is portable  - easy to move from place to place.

You may find using one word works best such as, mat, bed, etc.  Many people, say, "Kennel" to cue their dogs to go inside a kennel. You will want a different term such as, "Place" or "Mat" for when his bed is outside of the kennel. 

It is okay to extend the cue to "On your mat" or "Go to mat" as long as you are consistent, saying the exact words - preferably in the same even tone, and with the same body language or hand signal -  each time.  When giving any Instruction,  use the same voice tone each time and link the Instruction to a hand signal.  Dogs typically learn a hand signal faster than a word.  Again, keep your body language consistent when giving Instructions. This helps your dog to learn much faster.

The goal is to go slowly and keep it enjoyable for the dog.  Be gentle, use a happy tone, lots of praise, and intermittent treats.

Start this lesson with a soft cushy bed placed near you and put a leash on your dog.  Each time you take him and encourage him to choose the soft bed over the hard floor, also give him the words and signal for "on your mat" as he walks up on the bed. 

Now we will begin to add different training techniques to reinforce the verbal Instructions:

1.  Any time your dog freely goes to the bed on his own, add the Instruction and reward him.

2.  Then try to predict when he will walk to his bed so you can add the cue (words) sooner.  When he is several steps away give the word.

3.   After 6-12 times, add the cue when he is further away, but you are fairly certain that's where he is going.

4.  You can also set it up where he will want to go to the bed!  Tether him (leash attached to something heavy near the bed) across the room.  Show him a food puzzle or treat, place it on the bed.  Untether him and as he goes to get the treat, give the Instruction.

5.  When he is in another room, place a treat/food puzzle on the bed, then go to him and give the Instruction. Be ready to lead him to the bed if he doesn't "get it" the first few times you asked from a different room.

6.  Last step = give the Instruction when there are distractions, such as someone knocking at the door, or you are fixing his dinner.

Test it out! = from different rooms, different places with distractions and move the bed to different rooms.

Another Instruction to introduce is the "wait" Instruction which means the dog can be in any position but needs to remain in an area - on the mat, in the car, or in a room.  Stay means to hold a specific position until released or asks to change positions. You can reinforce the "wait" cue with close tethering.  The wait cue is also used when you leave the dog in a car, or ask the dog NOT to dash out of a door until you have gone through first and then given the dog permission to cross the threshold.

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