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
What is a Training Break?
For every 10 – 15 second training set, you will follow up with a 60 second break, signaled by the words “all done!” You will be alternating between short 10-15 second training sets, and 60 second break periods that will give your puppy a little time to do “puppy stuff.” This pattern will help your puppy learn how to “switch gears,” from calm, to excited, and back again. I highly recommend using a timer. Timers will help maintain a rhythm to the training. It’s easy to get distracted, where 1 minute turns into 20. The timer will keep you on track.
The goal in offering these breaks is to teach your dog to have a training “off switch.” It’s so important to have a puppy that engages with us happily and enthusiastically, and offers calm, focused behavior on cue but it’s just as important to teach our dogs that there’s also a time and a place to be a puppy. Consistent use of a release cue develops better focus, because it lets the puppy know that there will always be an end point to the exercise.
I recommend doing all of your initial Mat Work involving duration, distraction and distance training in your living room. When training inside I normally allow for play time with a “training toy” during each break (ie. a toy that they only have access to during training sessions).
When you start training outside – breaks will become an opportunity to explore the environment! Let your puppy use their senses to process new or stimulating sights, sounds and smells. It’s also important to have water readily available for your puppy during this time!