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Peaceful Meals & Get Togethers - Teach Your Dog “Go To The Mat”!

Picture it. . .your sitting down at the table to eat and here comes your dog, sniffing up at the table, begging, whimpering or barking at you while you are trying to eat.

Or, the doorbell rings and a delivery person has a package for you. Your dog races you to the door, barking, trying to push past you to see who is at the door.

Imagine being able to eat dinner, answer the door or have guests over (think holiday gatherings) and your dog is calmly laying on their “mat” with their favorite toy. We all want our dogs to be with us and part of gatherings or in the same room with us but not necessarily under foot or begging for food.

Over the next few articles, I will share with you one way to teach "Place", "Go to Mat", "Park It", or whatever you eventually choose to call this wonderful game, to your dog! Later on, you can even pair it with the doorbell or knocking so your dog automatically goes to their special place when someone is at the door!


Start by getting a blanket, very large towel or rug, or a large dog bed. Elevated beds work really well for this game! The idea is that your dog can’t miss getting onto whatever you are using. This item will need to be picked up when you’re done training, so the large area rug on your floor or a bed they are already using, may not be the best thing to use.

Stand on one side of the “mat”, tell your dog, “Get it” and toss a piece of food away from the “mat” so your dog moves away from you and the mat. Be sure to toss it underhand to avoid your dog trying to jump to get the food.

After your dog gets the food and is coming back to you, watch for the moment one paw touches the “mat”. The moment that happens, mark that behavior with a verbal marker (YES) or a clicker and then toss a piece of food onto the “mat”. (Keeping your marker word /clicker separate from the reward is an important step). As your dog reaches for the food, drop another one, and another one, and another one. The goal is to drop one piece at a time at a rate so only one piece is on the “mat” at a time but then all of a sudden, there is another one, and another one, etc before your dog has a chance to see that is coming from you. Don’t worry if they see you drop it, however. You’ll get the hang of it and they will still be learning the reward is coming from the “magical mat”! We want the dog to associate the “mat” with the reward. This way, we build the desire to get to the mat.

Marking the moment your dog touches the “mat” lets your dog know, that is the desired behavior for right now. As we progress, we will ask for an additional behavior and will mark that.

Use a Release Cue (free, release, break) and repeat the steps all over again starting with “Get it” and then tossing the food away from the mat. Notice we are not using a cue word to get on the “mat” just yet. We want to build the behavior we want first, and then we will name it later on.

Play this 4-6 times and then pick up the “mat” and put it away. Give your dog a short break to think about the game (about 3-5 min) and bring the “mat” out again and do another round and then put the “mat” away until later in the day or the next day.

It won’t take long before your dog is coming all the way onto the “mat”. I suggest playing this game in different parts of your house and also changing the direction in which you toss the food.

Playing this game a couple of times a day for a few days will get you and your dog ready for the next step!

Check out the video showing the beginning steps of teaching this fun game!

Watch for the next step in this fun game in a few days!

Happy Training!



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