Dog Mat Training: How to teach Your Dog to Relax on the Mat

Dog seating on the place mat

Does your dog struggle to remain calm or go crazy barking and jumping at guests when they enter the home? When you bring your dog to a restaurant or a brewery, does it turn into a flurry of pause and frustration?

Don't worry about it anymore. Today we'll be talking about how to help a dog calm down using mat training. 

What's the benefits of mat training?

  • Settling on a mat is a behavior that we can teach our dogs to perform reliably in particularly exciting or distracting environments. There are several small steps toward the eventual goal of relaxation on the mat while it may look a bit different from dog to dog. The goal is to give the dog a specific place that they can go to be relaxed.

  • Increase their comfort level and confidence and an opportunity for your dog to practice calm behaviors in a variety of environments.

  • Teaching the que go to the place mat can be a great thing for your dog to do when guests come over, you're getting their dinner ready, you're at a restaurant or you're in any situation that you'd like a calm relaxed dog.

Mat training can be such a powerful skill for your dog in just a moment but first let's talk about how to make a good environment for mat training.


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Make a good environment for training.

Provide comfort to your dog in that moment or just get distanced from the stressful situation entirely. When your dog is experiencing moderate to high levels of fear anxiety or stress, it's just best to remove the dog from that situation from there. Also, an under-exercised or bored dog is much harder to train. Start by building regular exercise and enrichment into your routine to get you started.

You'll find that those things result in a dog that is much easier to train and much easier to relax and calm down.

5 Steps to teach your dog to settle on a place mat

Step 1.

Build a positive association with the mat before we teach a dog to relax for any length of time on their mat. We first have to create a strong positive association with it.

Hold the mat rolled up in your arms and have a treat pouch ready for quick access to rewards.

Cow pattern dog treat pouch

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Lay out the mat on the ground. The moment the dog interacts with it in any way whether sniffing, glancing or even putting a paw on it.

Use your marker word or click with your clicker and immediately follow it with a reward tossed directly onto the mat. Continue a steady stream of rewards onto the mat for 15 to 20 seconds. Don't even give your dog a chance to move away. Then toss a treat away, pick up the mat and say all done after you've picked up the mat. Be as boring as possible. Don't talk and just stand there make it clear that when the mat is down the best stuff happens and when the mat is rolled up everything suddenly becomes super boring. After 10 seconds or so, put the mat back down and repeat the process of marking and rewarding for interacting with the mat. Continue this process of alternating back and forth between happy fun mat time and boring nomad time until your dog has clearly made the association of the mat with good things and is interacting with the mat quickly.

It's really important here that we're never forcing our dogs onto the mat in this training there's no leash required as you work on this over time. You'll find that your dog will start to gravitate towards their mat all on their own that's because you've charged it with all of these great associations.

Step 2.

This time when you put the mat down stand with the mat directly in front of you. When your dog motions toward it wait a moment and observe as soon as they have all four feet on the mat mark and reward on the mat with a single treat and move away with them or call them away with a hand target if you have taught that skill. Do this several times. Walking toward the mat with them and marking in rewarding for having four feet on the mat. Keep the mat on the ground at this point then we can move on to a sit on the mat.

Step 3.

We recommend giving your dog a chance to sit on the mat on their own rather than cueing them for it since most dogs will offer a sit on their own due to prior training. Once your dog is coming to the mat and sitting, wait and see if they lay down if you give them a few more moments. If they're struggling with this step, point to the mat and give a cue for the down. Toss a treat off the mat or calling them away with a hand target once your dog is reliably coming to their mat for each repetition.

We have to be as consistent and predictable as possible for the location and the cue sign.


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Step 4.

Build duration this time. When you ask your dog to go to your mat, wait one second after they lay down before marking and rewarding. Do this a few times then move on to two or three seconds slowly. Build up to a minimum of 10 seconds with them on their mat before receiving a reward. At this point after each repetition begin incorporating your dog's release cue so they know when they are being released from their mat. In the beginning, I give the release cue and toss a treat off the mat or enthusiastically move away and encourage them to come with me.

Step 5

It's time to take this show on the road! Try it on the front lawn when guests come over or even out on your walks. The key here is to take things slow and break it down and run through the steps again as if teaching it for the first time. You may discover that my dog doesn't know how to settle on a mat when you try adding a new scenario but that's only natural.

If you've taught them that exclusively inside, they only know how to relax on a mat inside. So you should teach them in different environments. Over time your dog will learn oh yeah it's that awesome matte thing again and the learning process will likely happen more and more quickly.

I hope that you've enjoyed learning about mat training as a way to keep your dog calm and relaxed in the face of some pretty exciting things.

The mat training we've done with our dog 'Daisy' has been life-changing in how we're able to work with them and give her a place in the home where all good things happen. Not to mention that this work creates a stronger connection between you and your animal if you want to take your training to the next level.

Our Leaf Place Mats are great products for you to train your dog. So don't forget to check!

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Jisuk Kim┃ Creator 



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