Teaching your dog to go to their mat can be one of the most important behaviours in your toolbox. When successfully trained, you should be able to cue your dog to go to their mat from a distance and in many different environments. Eventually, they can even lay down and relax on the mat until released. This behaviour can be very helpful when you are doing activities such as cooking, greeting visitors, cleaning up messes, eating meals, or when the doorbell rings.

You can create a natural magnetic effect by ONLY bringing the mat out when you are actively training or feeding a stuffed food toy, meal, or chew. When the good stuff is done, put the mat away. Guaranteed, your dog will start hopping on that mat as soon as they see it! 

Use a mat, towel, blanket, or your dog’s bed. Be armed with your clicker and a treat pouch full of high value, pea-sized treats. 

Step 1: Interacting with the matTo begin, hold the mat in your hand or tucked under your arm. Next, place the mat on the floor a foot or two away from your dog and watch carefully. If your dog glances towards the mat, CLICK the look. Then treat your dog by placing 4 or 5 treats, one by one, on the mat. Once your dog has eaten all the treats on the mat, gently encourage them away from the mat or toss a treat so your dog follows. Immediately scoop up the mat and tuck it under your arm. Stand, wait, and be boring for 5-10 seconds before repeating. Repeat 5-10 times.If at any point the dog does not look toward the mat, don’t worry! Wait 15 full seconds, then pick up the mat, and then wait 15 seconds before putting it down again.

Step 2: Click for movementRepeat Step 1 but now you will only click for movement towards the mat. Repeat until your dog readily goes toward the mat when you place it on the floor before moving to Step 3.If at any point the dog does not move toward the mat, don’t worry! Wait 15 full seconds, then pick up the mat, and then wait 15 seconds before putting it down again. 

Step 3: Touching the matRepeat Step 2 but now only click if your dog has 1 or more paws touching the mat. Repeat 5x. Next, you will only click for 2 or more paws on the mat. Repeat 5x. Finally, only click when your dog has all 4 paws on the mat. Repeat 5x. Step 4: All four paws on the matNow let’s name it! When you place the mat down, say your cue and wait. When your dog moves onto the mat (all four paws), click and reward on the mat. Then toss one treat off the mat so that they have to chase it and return for another repetition. Say your cue once they’ve eaten the stray treat and are heading back. Repeat this at least 5x.Step 5: Move aroundNow let’s move around! Stand 1ft away from the mat and cue your dog to go to mat. If they do, click and feed them on the mat. Toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 2-3x. Next, cue your dog from 2ft away, then 3f away, then 4ft away, etc. (do a few repetitions at each level).

You are cueing your dog to go to their mat from various distances and angles. If any distance is too hard, go back to the last successful trial and repeat at that distance a few times. Try again but at half the distance your dog found too hard. In this way, you will work on getting more and more distance from the mat while maintaining your dog’s success.Step 6: Advanced (cueing an auto-down)Only if your dog is fluent in “down”Cue your dog to go to mat and when they do, rather than clicking, ask for a “Down” (only do this if down is a reliable behaviour). Click when they lie down, return to the mat, and feed them in position. Very slowly, increase your distance from your dog and mat when you ask for the “down.”