Dog Place Mat Training: Expert Tips to Train Successfully

Last Updated on June, 2024

Does your dog bark when guests enter your home? Then, you should start dog place mat training!

So, whenever your dog acts embarrassed or weird, you can say, “Go to the mat.” 

You don’t need a certified professional dog trainer to mat train your pup. 

We will guide you about mat training, including the type of mat you should use, the things essential for it, and how to train your dog accordingly. 

Read till the END!

Quick Summary

Dog mat training is teaching your dog to settle on the mat on cue. This requires having the right type of mat, treats, and (optionally) a clicker.

There are five main steps to train a dog to settle on the mat, which include teaching the dog to go to the mat, using a release cue, introducing a cue word, cueing the behavior, and practicing distance, distraction and duration.

There are many benefits of mat training, such as calming an anxious dog, teaching independence, overcoming behavioral problems, helping with comfort in new environments, and staying calm in public.

What is Dog Mat Training?

A yellow labrador puppy laying on a white comfy mat

Dog mat training is teaching your dog to the mat on cue. You can coach your dog through the training session to accomplish this task. But is dog training important? Of course, your dog MUST go to the mat once it gets the cue. 

That’s how you coach your dog to be calm and free from distractions when you require it. Dog training might be difficult, but it’s worth it! 

Next, what are the instances you will make use of this training session? When visitors come to your place, the doorbell rings during snack time, and when you need to rest- you can ask your dog to rest on the mat. 

Things You Need to Start Mat Training

Considering the things you need to start mat training, here are our three leading picks:

  • Mat: Using a mat is essential for mat coaching! Avoid substituting your pet’s bed for a mat, as it can create confusion for your pet regarding the distinction between a mat and a bed. Generally, bath mats are the best to mat train your dog. They are slippery-proof to save your dog’s day. So, you can shop for the best rug for your dog’s requirements.
  • Treats: Again, training with treats is efficient. You can use many treats based on what your pup highly prefers. Pick their top choices as high-value treats. It may vary from cheese, chicken, bones, kibble, chewy toy, balls, hot dogs, or even their favorite food or toy. 
  • Clicker (optional): Clicker is an optional tool for the training. It is a small mechanical noisemaker. The clicker is highly valued as it depicts the type of behavior your dog is rewarded for. You mark the cue or the moment the activity is performed right. (Read more about clicker training here.)

Mat and treats are two essential things for the training. You must have both. 

But, the clicker is an optional tool. If you have not clicker-trained your dog, you can omit it. Now, it’s time to follow the below step-by-step guidance to teach your pup to go to the mat. 

5 Steps to Train Your Dog to Settle in the Mat

Here are the five steps to coach your dog to settle in the mat. You need a lot of patience to get to the end of this guide. So, hold on to your rope tighter!

1. Teaching Your Dog to Go to the Mat

Teaching your pup to go to the mat is done in a very systematic way and is pretty straightforward. 

You need to have your mat, treats, and clickers (if you use one) to get started. Before you place the mat, hold the mat and create interest for your pup. 

Now, place the bath mat near your dog or your desired spot. 

Next, lure your pup onto the mat. You’ll notice that the dogs learn to come to the mat. 

Once your dog lays and has placed all four paws on the mat, click the clicker or mark the dog’s behavior with the marker word “Yes” and give the treat.

A brown and white dog standing on a mat

Key point: Ensure that all four feet are on the mat, whether your pup is sitting, standing, or lying quietly. Here, the dog learns that it’s time for more treats when it’s on the mat!

It is one of the fun tricks of teaching your dog to go to the mat. 

2. Use a Release Cue

Once your dog stays on the mat, it’s time to introduce the release signal. It would be best if you used the release word to teach your dog that it’s free to leave the mat. 

Your pup should be on the mat, but don’t give the treat now. Instead, toss the treat away. Then, your dog leaves the mat to get the treat. When your dog runs to get the treat set away, give the release cue as “Free!” or “All done!”‘. 

Next, lure the dog to the mat, and once it sets all four paws on the mat, mark the behavior as the first stage. But don’t give the treat. Then, repeat this step from the beginning. 

After a few repetitions, you will learn that your pup returns automatically even though you don’t use the lure. It would take around 6 to 10 repetitions to work out. Once your dog comes to the mat automatically without the lure, you can start step 3. 

3. Incorporate the Cue word

This step is simple if your dog has the basic obedience in the above steps. 

Here, you will introduce the cue word “Place” once your dog is entirely or lying quietly on the mat. It’s a point to mark the behavior and give the treat. 

Next, you can toss the treat away and give the release word of “Free!”.

Again, once your pup returns to the mat, provide the cue word ‘Place’ and toss the treat away. 

It will depict the completion of 1 complete round of the behavior. 

A small dog laying on a mat

The critical note: This stage ensures your dog gets used to the word “Place” once it places itself entirely on the mat. 

It is how your own dog interacts at this stage. Once your dog understands and pairs the cue word and the behavior a couple of times, you can go to the next step. 

4. Cue the Behavior

In this step, we will transfer from treating the word ‘Place’ from a behavior to a command. 

You won’t say “Place” once your dog is entirely on the mat like the previous step. Instead, you will command the dog as “Place” so that your pup then steps onto the mat. Once your dog obeys your command, give the treat unless it’s in down position. 

Keynote: This stage helps your dog to treat the word “Place” as a command and obey it. 

5. Practice Distance, Distraction and Duration

Does your dog successfully come to the mat when you cue? If yes, you can hop onto this stage. 

So, as the final stage, we introduce the 3Ds:

  • Distance: Gradually increase the distance between you and the dog mat. 
  • Distraction: Add distractions while you follow the distance instructions as above. 
  • Duration: Increase the time your pup stays on the mat while you follow both the distance and distraction instructions as above. 

It is a slow and steady process. It will gradually work when your dog learns to down position and practices along the way. 

So, here’s our little timing guide to start with a few seconds you can follow:

  • Keep your pup for 3-5 seconds on the mat.
  • Next, go for 10 seconds
  • Then, step into 20 seconds and step a bit away from your puppy. 
  • Moving forward, hold for 40 seconds. 

After each of the above timings, you need to release and give treats to your pup. Ensure your dog doesn’t move until you release the cue, “Free!” as that’s the end of each round. 

Most dogs prefer high-value treats. Therefore, when the distance and duration increase, make sure to give high-value treats. Keep them happy and occupied to avoid unusual behaviors. 

Here are the distractions you can do:

  • Clap your hands
  • Bend your knees
  • Reach your hands up high
  • Touch your toes
  • Jumping jacks
  • Squatting
  • Take small steps around your dog

The ultimate goal of doing distractions is to coach your dog that whatever you do, it should stay on the mat. After you throw away some distractions, you can give the release word. 

Here are more tips at this stage:

  • To train this session, you can use a new location. It can be a cafe or a friend’s house. For example, if you’re at your mate’s house, you can lie your pup quietly on the mat. 
  • Ensure they are appropriately excited about the new environment. Then, you can release the treat and practice the new cue. 
  • Alternatively, you can ask your dog to go to the mat when talking to your family member. Then, you can continue talking. Finally, give the release word and toss the treat for your dog. 
  • Make sure to use the same treat sparingly. The same treats can make your pup feel bored. Therefore, use high-value treats.

Make sure to keep it as a slow and smooth process. As you step forward, your dog may get angry or frustrated. So, please keep it in the safe zone and get the best outcome. 

What Kind of Mat Should You Use for Mat Training?

pictures of dogs laying on dog mats

First, you might have many CONFUSIONS when purchasing a suitable and comfy mat for your dog. 

You have two options: Purchase either a dog mat or an elevated dog bed. But it’s best to buy a dog mat. Generally, bath mats are highly preferred. 

Why choose bath mats? Bath mats are comfy and have slip-free bottoms. You can also carry them when you leave for outings with your dog. It is not heavy and only holds a little space. Make sure to use this mat for training sessions and nothing else.

Your Biggest Mat Training Mistake

There is a mistake everyone makes when mat coaching. What’s it? Using your dog’s bed. 

Why not use the dog bed for mat training? Please keep your pet’s dog and mat separate entities so that your dog understands its differences and the behavior changes. 

It helps to avoid unwanted behaviors and confusion during and after the training session. 

Things to Keep in Mind Before Dog Mat Training

A dog laying on a tan mat in front of a door

Here are the 3 MUST things to keep in mind before mat coaching your dog:

Setup a Good Environment

Depending on the dog’s mood swings, you need to set up the environment for the dog before mat coaching. 

Initially, you can start by performing regular exercises so your dog is active. 

It will be beneficial if your dog is bored or lazy. Next, make sure your dog is in the surroundings it prefers. 

There should be no distractions before and during the training until you reach the fifth stage of dog training, building the distractions. 

Take it Slow

Mat coaching is a slow and steady process. You need to take over each step slowly. It should also go in the same way the dog can understand. 

Remember, sometimes things don’t go how you desire, so be patient. You need a lot of practice and bonding with your dog to complete the mat coaching. 

Have Enough Amount of Treats

Treats are the critical elements in mat training. Therefore, ensure you have set up the essential treats before pup mat coaching. Also, the treats should be the items your furry friend loves or likes to eat or play. 

The Benefits of Place Mat Training

Two pictures of dogs laying on a dog mat

Although there are many benefits of place mat coaching, here are our top 5 picks:

Aids the Anxious Dog to Relax

Sometimes, dogs become anxious and bark when meeting strangers. 

Do you want to be embarrassed in such situations? No, so you can ask your pup to relax on the mat. It helps to keep your dog calm, relaxed, and less stressful. 

Therefore, the dog can rest and stay peaceful in such instances. It will help your pup to overcome its anxiousness. 

Teaches Independence

Is your dog always at your feet? Does it always come around you? Then, it’s time to train and teach it to be independent. Being independent is taught at the 5th stage of mat coaching (discussed above). 

The training helps your pup to be empowered and find the personal space of itself. Also, this is achieved most positively. 

Prevents Behavioral Problems

There are instances when your dog behaves oddly. For example, your dog comes around you while eating or cooking. Does that sound disturbing? You can command your dog to sit on the mat in such instances. 

Other instances include when your dog jumps in front of guests, counter surfs for snacks, dashes the door when it opens, and gets over excited looking at people. During such situations, mat coaching comes in handy. 

Helps Them Feel Comfortable in New Environments

Imagine you visit a hotel and take your dog with you. If your dog doesn’t like the new environment, it will not behave well. 

In such instances, you can bring your mat coaching to life. 

You can ask your dog to go to the mat to stay at the dog’s pace. Of course, it will obey your words if it is adequately mat trained. 

Not just a hotel, when you visit your friend’s home, breweries, and more! 

A black and white dog laying on a mat

However, mat coaching saves you from getting the desired behavior when your dog is less comfy. 

Stay Calm in Public

Once you have started mat coaching, you can ensure your dog’s life is calm and contended. 

Even when you have a cup of coffee in public, you can cue the dog to sit on the mat (when you carry the dog place mat). 

When you train right, the cue word does the magic in public.

The techniques of properly mat coaching the distraction and duration strategies work here! 

Other guides and tools you might need when training your dog:

Final Thoughts

Mat training is not a piece of cake. But, following our in-depth, step-by-step guide, you can enjoy the piece of cake.

Mat coaching gives many benefits to controlling your dog’s behaviors and manners even in public. 

Moreover, it strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Therefore, get started on mat coaching today. 

We hope this guide was worth it for your mat training process. 

FAQs

Yes, mat training is good for dogs as it provides them with the opportunity to learn to stay calm, be independent, and navigate through challenging and anxious situations.

Dog mat training is a technique that teaches dogs to stay in place on a mat when prompted to do so.

The benefits of Mat Training include improved obedience, increased independence, calming of anxious dogs, addressing behavioral issues, and more.

A pet mat is used to provide warmth and comfort for pets during travel or transportation.

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Laura Vinzy
Laura Vinzy is one of our contributors. She is also a certified professional dog trainer & currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two rescue dogs.

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