WEEK 1: Getting Started
WEEK 2: Duration on Mat
WEEK 3: Distraction on Mat
WEEK 4: Distance on Mat
WEEK 5: Hand Signals & Verbal Cues
Maintaining Your Base
The foundation you’ve established with your dog is important in many ways. It’s a system of communication, a reference point when training with behavioral challenges, and when used appropriately it will put calm, relaxed behavior on cue.
If you only ever train in challenging situations, your dog might develop an aversion to the mat. For this reason it’s important to consider the manner in which you “maintain your base.”
Do at least 3-4 sessions each week that are relatively easy or enjoyable for you and your dog. For example, you could ask your dog to go to place, and reinforce with a combination of food and a game of tug, or by tossing a ball. You can also ditch your dog food bowl and hand feed meals on the mat, this is a great idea for dogs that experience chronic stress or anxiety due to sound sensitivity or separation anxiety.
If you’re going to use toys, here are a few considerations:
- Use a release cue like, “get it” to let your dog know they have the green light to go for the toy.
- Use trades. Try trading with an equal value toy or food to entice your dog to bring the toy back and let go of the toy.
- Using the training mat as “home base” can help teach dogs to bring an item back to you.
- Avoid chasing after your dog or grabbing toys from his or her mouth as this will usually make dogs more inclined to play “keep away.”
- Keep your sessions short. Play for 5-10 minutes before you put the toys away. Dogs that mindlessly play fetch for extended periods of time are more likely to develop issues with regulating arousal, this includes excessive barking, frustrated behavior, pacing and general anxiety.