Have you ever envied those people in the pub, whose dogs just lie under the table calmly? It can be you in just a couple of weeks. Today I would like to share an ingenious technique. I learned it from my mentor, while interning at Whole Dog Training. The exercise will teach your dog to relax and to calm down, while waiting by your side.
Relaxation on a Mat
Here is the original article by Whole Dog Training. The goal of the exercise is to teach a dog to lie down, when the owner is sitting. Why not just teach the dog a “down” cue and then use it as needed? First, the dog is likely to expect treats, release or some kind of attention, when given a cue. However, our goal is to avoid attention seeking and to be able to ignore the dog for a while. Second, letting the dog “discover” the correct behaviour is a more effective and natural approach to dog training. The discovery approach for dogs is like Montessori for children: no pressure, no stress, greater results.
For this exercise you will need a leash, treats (small cookies, cubed cucumber, cheese etc.) and a medium-sized mat (i.e. bathroom mat, small towel). Do not use the dog’s usual bed. As usual, start at home and increase the level of distraction gradually, making sure that the dog is performing the behaviour in about 90% of time.
1.Take the dog out of the room.
2. Place the mat in front of a chair and scatter a few treats on it. Have the rest of the treats easily accessible.
3. Bring the dog back (leash on).
4. Let your dogs discover the treats and sit on the chair.
5. While keeping your dog on leach, try to ignore the dog completely (No eye contact, no speaking, no interaction).
6. Start dropping a few treats every 2 seconds on the mat, when the dog is sniffing the mat or looks down.
7. After a few minutes, your dog should figure out, that a) something is up with the mat, and b) the less he looks at you, the more treats he gets. At this point, start dropping treats only, when the dog is sitting or lying down and is not looking at you.
8. Continue doing this in short sessions (10-15 minutes) at least once daily, gradually increasing amount of distraction.
After a couple of weeks, you should be able to sit in public place with people around with your dog lying down by your side. Initially, you will have to carry the mat with you and to continue to reward the dog every 5-10 minutes. Eventually, you will enjoy the company of a relaxed and quite dog even without the mat and with occasional treats. By the way, this exercise is a great way to begin your training sessions.