Truffle and I were on KOLR 10 and KSFX the other day showing how to teach a dog how to go to a mat. You can catch us on TV every other Tuesday morning on KOLR 10 between 6:15 and 6:45 a.m. We are on KSFX at about 7:10 a.m.
Teaching your dog to run to his mat is a really useful behavior to train. You can have your dog run to his mat and stay when you have someone come to the door, when you have guests, or when you want a peaceful dinner without dog drool in your lap.
I like to train this with a bathmat or rug so you can move it easily from place to place. You can teach the same behavior with a dog bed or a crate with a little modification. There are a few different ways to train this behavior but I have found for the average pet owner this is the easiest to understand and accomplish.
Keep in mind that the running to the mat is one behavior, laying down or sitting is the second behavior, and the stay is a third behavior. Breaking this up into small pieces to practice makes the process easier and the dog will learn it faster.
To teach the dog to run to the mat using the lure/target method:
Set the mat in front of the dog and put a treat on the mat to lure the dog onto it. When the dog goes to the mat and stands on it eating his treat, praise and give a couple more treats. Say "mat" while the dog is on the mat. This will work into your cue later.
Pick the mat up and move it a little to one side. Put treats on the mat and repeat.
Repeat the process until the dog is running to the mat when you say "mat"
Begin working distance by moving your dog farther and farther away from the mat. Always give treats on the mat.
To teach the dog to Lay Down or Sit on the mat:
Send the dog to the mat by saying "mat", when the dog gets on the mat ask him to lay down and then give the treats. If you want the dog to sit give the sit cue then give the treats.
To teach the dog to stay:
After the dog has laid down (or sat) tell the dog to stay. As long as the dog is on the mat feed a treat every few seconds. When you are ready for the dog to get up say "free". If the dog gets off the mat before you release it with the free cue, then the treat bar closes, say "uh oh" and you start the exercise over. Remember to begin the stay with a short duration and slowly work it up in time then add distractions. A good distraction to add is the doorbell ringing. Once they can stay with the doorbell then you can add a person walking in. Train for the distractions you want the dog to stay on his mat for.