The other day I was at a brewery and I saw a young Chocolate Lab hanging out with his person. The Lab looked happy to be there. One thing I noticed that could’ve made him happier would’ve been a comfy place to lie down. The floor of the building was concrete, which for most dogs isn’t a preferred lying spot. But other than comfort, a mat is a great thing to bring so that your dog has a good spot to do an incompatible behavior to a lot of unwanted behaviors. What does this mean? Young dogs will generally jump, bark, play bite and do other social things when people come near. This, paired with being on leash, which can lead to frustration related behaviors, can result in a not so relaxing time for you or your dog. When you head out with your dog, consider bringing a mat, a variety of treats, a front attaching harness and some water. (Did we forget anything?) The mat you bring doesn’t have to be anything too fancy. But you’ll want it to have a little padding. If you’re trying to teach your dog to stay on the mat in the moment you’re going to need to be rewarding them very frequently. (Probably 10 treats per minute on average at first.) Once you get into a rhythm though those rewards can start to be spread out. We recommend practicing this at home ahead of time to set you and your dog up for success. Here’s how to practice: 1. Each evening grab the mat and place it on the ground. 2. Grab a handful of treats and ask your dog to down on the mat and reward. 3. Start rewarding randomly. Do it often enough that you’re beating any unwanted behaviors. (Standing up, barking, pawing etc.) After a couple days of practicing, place the mat down and see if you can get your dog to go to it before you grab the food rewards. Chances are good that it’ll happen. Be sure to always reward your dog on the mat and preferably in the down position. It’s also a good idea to practice a “stay” with Distractions and Distance. When teaching dogs, we start off with distractions and then move onto distance. Lastly, we work on the duration part which is what listed above. When you put this all together, your dog will likely be able to relax on a mat in different scenarios. This means you can enjoy your time out and so can your dog.
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