“Go to your bed” is a fantastic alternative to other behaviors. If your dog is lying on his mat, he isn’t begging at the table, jumping on your friends, or counter surfing while you cook. Imagine a family party in which your dog waits on his mat. Incredible! Take your well-mannered dog and his mat anywhere, such as an outdoor patio or friend’s home!
How to start:
- Get a mat or dog bed.
- Use your clicker (or verbal “yes”) to indicate when the dog has done something right and that a cookie is coming! A cookie reward always follows the click.
- With your clicker, cookies and leashed dog, stand a few inches from the mat and face the mat. Be silent. Your feet are frozen to the ground!
- When the dog comes over and steps on the mat, click and deliver a cookie (“treat”) to his mouth. Continue to click and treat while he has a paw or paws on the mat 9 times. The 10th time, click when the dog is on the mat, but toss the cookie a couple feet away. This clicker timing indicates to the dog that he earned his cookie while on the mat; however, because he had to leave the mat to get his cookie, he must figure out that to make more cookies happen, he must return to the mat!
- Click when the dog returns to step on the mat. Continue to click and treat on the mat several times. After the last click of that repetition, toss the treat off the mat.
- Slowly up your criteria so the dog must offer all four paws on the mat to earn a click. Start clicking for any indication of your dog sitting or lying down on the mat. Soon lying down becomes the new criteria for the dog to earn clicks!
- When your dog zooms back to the mat and understands this game, it’s time to “work the clock.” Picture the mat as the center of a clock and you stand where the numbers are. Send your dog to the mat from every angle: 1pm, 8pm, and so on.
How to advance:
- Give a verbal cue (“go to your bed” or “place”) once before the dog steps on the mat. Click and treat when the dog is in the desired position (down). You only click from now on when the dog first gets onto the mat and into the down! Then treat and continue to treat so that your dog does not leave the down position. Over time, have longer gaps of time between cookies.
- Use your release word (“ok”) when you are done and guide him off the mat with his leash. He then realizes he may leave the mat when you say “ok!”
How to master:
- Vary the duration of how long your dog stays on the mat - 2 seconds or 2 minutes!
- Continue “working the clock” (see #7 above) but add distance! After your dog can perform the skill from every angle, add another 3-6 inches of distance between your feet and the mat. Then repeat with more distance! You never walk or guide your dog toward the mat – this would teach your dog that you accompany him to the mat. Eventually you want your dog trotting happily to his mat from another room (without you)! Be sure to remain with your feet frozen while you click for your dog getting into the down position on the mat; after the click, walk to the dog to deliver his cookie!
Practice in different locations and with different mats.