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Many dogs benefit from learning to relax on cue. These are the steps to teaching your dog to relax on a special mat. There are two phases: 1. Teach your dog to lie down and stay on the mat. 2. Teach your dog to relax on the mat.
 
Once your dog has learned to relax, you can use the mat in situations which would normally cause him fear or anxiety.
 

You Will Need:

  • Mat
    • Portable
    • Non-skid backing
    • Large enough to fit your dog’s whole body when he is lying down
    • Low pile or no pile so that the treats are easily seen and eaten
  • Treats
    • Small and quickly swallowed.
    • Not too exciting for your dog to be able to relax
 

Part 1: Teach your dog to down-stay on the mat

Part 2: Teach your dog to relax

  • Sit in your chair next to the mat. Watch your dog out of the corner of your eye, but try not to stare at him or engage him. It is best at this point if you do something else, like read a book or watch TV.
  • When he offers any signs that he is disengaging from you by looking away, rolling over onto his hip or putting his head down, you can reward him with a treat on the mat. (You can also sporadically reward him for staying on the mat, too!)
  • Each time that you reward him, go right back to disengaging from him.
  • As soon as your dog is disengaging from you, start rewarding any movement that indicates he might put his head down. Work towards him actually putting his head down.
  • Once he gets it, you should start to see that your dog eats the treat and immediately puts his head back down. Now, you are ready to increase the time that he needs to perform this behavior to get the treat.
  • Begin to count the seconds your dog puts his head down, and reinforce exactly as you did for the down-stay. Reach the same 3-in-a-row success rate before making it longer.
  • Continue to increase the amount of time that your dog lies and relaxes on the mat until he can do this for 15 to 30 minutes, with treats several minutes apart. Once he reaches this goal, he is ready to use relaxation for his behavior modification exercises!

 

Tips

  • Choose a room in which your dog is already comfortable.
  • Keep the food treats out of sight. In a dish or in your bait bag are great. Avoid bag crinkling!
  • Place treats on the mat between his feet instead of handing them to him.
  • Talk in soft tones. Say only what you need to.
  • Separate your other dogs from you while you are practicing.
  • Practice when your dog is not stressed. 

  • Pick up the mat and put it away between sessions. Leaving it out will weaken the association with relaxation.
  • Try to stay quiet. Don’t chatter non-stop or use high-pitched exciting tones.
  • Avoid physically manipulating your dog onto the mat or into a down. This will not help him to relax.
Once your dog and you have this down, you’re ready to go on to your next steps!