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Teaching your Frenchie to settle at home
Long term Frenchie owners know that training your pooch to settle quietly on a mat is one of the most important and valuable exercises you can teach your dog. Why? Because it teaches impulse control and helps to promote calmness.
The benefit of mat training can be applied to so many situations where behavioural problems exist. For example: jumping up when visitors arrive; separation anxiety when the owner is out of the house; aggression towards other people and a range of other compulsive disorders where calmness is required.
The 3 training steps are:
- Moving your dog onto the mat
- Sitting or dropping on the mat
- Remaining on the mat
1. Moving your dog to the Mat
Put your dog’s mat on the floor and take one step back.
Make sure your dog is ready to participate by calling their name and offering a treat. Holding a treat in your hand in front of your dog, move your hand slowly towards their mat. When your dog steps on their mat, confirm their action by saying ‘YES’ and / or using your clicker, then drop the treat onto the mat as a reward.
If your dog steps off the mat, then try to lure them back on again, and reward your dog by tossing the treat onto the mat when they are standing still with all four feet completely on the mat.
Remember to keep these training sessions short eg: 2-3 repetitions at a time before your dog loses interest. When you end a session, say words like ‘All Done’ or ‘Finished’ and put your open palms out to show there are no more treats and that your dog can leave the mat.
2. Sitting or dropping onto the Mat
When you feel that your dog has learned the first step and knows they need to be standing completely on the mat, you can ask your dog to ‘SIT’. Reward them by tossing a treat onto the mat. If they then move off the mat, lure them back to the mat so you can repeat the exercise and ask them to ‘Sit’. Reward each time they complete the required behaviour.
Combine moving to the mat with sitting on the mat, so the dog is always sitting when it goes to the mat. Remember, if your dog is confused and doesn’t sit, just go back a few steps.
If your dog already knows the ‘Drop’ command, you can add the drop cue instead of sit. Then begin to combine going to the mat and dropping as one movement which is then rewarded.
Practice this a few times and then end the session.
3. Remaining on the Mat
Remaining or settling on the mat simply involves increasing the duration of this behaviour. To practice this keep tossing treats onto the mat, gradually increasing the time between receiving treats, to see if the dog remains in position on the mat.
If your dog moves off the mat, stop throwing treats and encourage it back onto the mat to repeat the exercise for a shorter period of time before ending the session.
When you can get your dog to consistently remain in position on the mat for a few minutes at a time you can introduce a chew toy into the routine instead of tossing treats so your dog can feel relaxed on the mat. Finally, you will want to instill in your dog the understanding that they need to take up their position on their mat when you make a verbal command and hand signal, even if you are nowhere near the mat.
To do this, you add the cue words “On Your Mat” and hand signal (pointing to the mat. Then reward them for the correct action. Repeat this process a few times then move one step away from the mat and cue your dog until gradually you can increase the distance from which you can send your dog to the mat. Gradually you can combine the duration of the exercise as well as increasing the distance as appropriate. Eventually, you will want them to follow your command from wherever you may be in your home.
Building on your success
You may want to build on mat training by including training them to ignore distractions such as strange noises, doorbells ringing or making unexpected movements. Always remember to reward your dog for ignoring the distractions and staying calmly in position on the mat.
Some final thoughts
Keep the sessions short so that they don’t get bored too easily. Remember to increase the duration, distance and distractions slowly. You can always go back a step if your dog moves when it should not.
Never send your dog to its mat as a punishment. The mat needs to represent a safe, good place that your dog feels comfortable on.
Finally, try not to interact too much with your dog while it is settled on its mat. This will help them to maintain their calmness.
Above all, try to make the training a Fun process for both of you!
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