This month we are up to Stage Three of the mat game. If you have worked your way through the instructions in the October and November newsletters you should now have a pup that will go and get on the mat as soon as you make it available to them. This has happened because you made it worthwhile for the pup to want to be on the mat by rewarding them every time they are there.
What we are going to do in Stage Three is get the puppy to go to their mat, lie down and then stay on there for short periods of time. To make the process easier for your pup it will be very helpful to have already taught him to lie down as part of the general obedience training. It is important not to rush this stage so that he really understands what you want. If you are training a puppy you also need to bear in mind that just like a child, puppies have short attention spans and so you shouldn’t overdo the length of time they stay on the mat until the next step.
As with all your previous training sessions plan before you begin. Organise the pups mat, collar, lead and treats before you bring your pup into the training area. Start off the session with a few repetitions of your pup going to the mat while you are standing close to them. Remember to reward him when he has all four feet on the mat. After the first couple of goes, when he gets on the mat ask him to “down” or “drop” depending on the word you have used in obedience training. If he lies down when told, give the reward. If he doesn’t after the first request call them off the mat and try again, rather than repeat the command.
Stick with this for a few days until he reliably gets on the mat and lies down. Work up to sending your dog to the mat from a distance and him then lying down. If you do enough repetitions with a high level of reward you will find that when the pup goes to get on the mat he will start to automatically lie down. Once this happens you can begin working on the length of time you ask your dog to stay there.
To begin duration work, go back to being close to your pup and go through the normal process of getting him on the mat and then lying down. Once he has received his first reward in the down position, wait about one second and then if he stays on the mat, reward him again. Call the pup off the mat and wait for him to get back on. Reward as normal when he gets on the mat but this time wait two seconds and if he doesn’t move, reward again. Call him off the mat again, let him get back on and reward, then wait three seconds and reward again. Slowly continue to increase the length of time you wait before you give him his next reward.
If your pup goes to get off the mat don’t tell him off as he is still learning what you want him to do. Simply withhold any rewards, reorganise yourself and wait for your pup to get back on the mat and try again. When he gets it correct, reward him with a treat. If your pup is making lots of mistakes it may be an indication that you have increased the length of time too quickly so consider making it easier until your pup gains confidence and understanding of the task at hand.
Next month we will work on utilising the mat game in different locations around your house and introducing distractions.