Clicker training for fun & games – Part 3
To the mat
Wouldn’t it be nice if your puppy would go to its mat and lie down nicely on cue? It can happen, and once you’ve taught this behavior you can use it in many ways. For instance, you can place the mat wherever you need the puppy to go – in the car, in a crate or simply away from people who don’t want a puppy jumping on them.
The last clicker training class I went to taught me just how to do this lesson. The trick is to teach puppies that hanging out on the mat is a good thing. Here’s how:
First, place the mat on the floor in front of the puppy. You have to be ready to click right away because most puppies will investigate anything new. When the puppy comes to sniff at the mat, click and treat. It’s best if you let your puppy come back to you for the treat, so it can have practice going to the mat again and again.
Next, don’t just click for a sniff or the mat. Wait – the puppy should try to figure out what comes next. If the puppy comes to you, ignore it. When the puppy tries something else, such as actually touching the mat with its nose or putting a foot on the mat, click and treat again. Click anything that gets the dog engaged in the game that this particular item on the floor has importance.
Gradually click each new step, clicking as the puppy gets closer to the mat, ignoring the puppy as it gets further away. If the puppy isn’t touching the mat, height can help. A dog bed works better than, for example, a flat towel.
You can also lure the puppy toward the mat with a treat, then click when the pup steps on th mat. You want the puppy to understand that you want its feet on the mat. For many puppies, this only takes a few minutes, but some may take several sessions.
Once the puppy is standing on the mat, the next step is to ask for a sit. When the dog sits, either on your cue or on its own, click and treat.
Finally, attach a cue. Make sure that what the dog is doing is firmly in the dog’s mind before attaching a verbal cue like “mat” or “bed.” Practice until the puppy goes to the mat and sits on cue.