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  • DateMay 11, 2020

Settle on a mat – how to get your kitchen back! Part 2.

As I mentioned in Part 1, here we’ll be talking about fluency, and now you have that perfect “mat” behaviour, I’m going to give a step-by-step for how I taught Sweep to love his mat more than being under my feet in the kitchen. 

Fluency includes precision (what you want the final behaviour to look like), latency (how fast your dog responds to the cue) and speed (how fast it takes your dog to do the behaviour from cue to final response).  I may choose to work on these three things eventually but for the purpose of this behaviour just now they’re not as important as:

  • Distractions – so in the context of Sweep staying on his mat in the dining room while I’m preparing food we need to look at rustling wrappers, opening the fridge, opening cupboards and drawers, rattling cutlery;
  • Duration – we want good duration on this so that we’re able to crack on with making our meals without having to deliver reinforcement every 10 seconds so we will be looking to build it to a few minutes;
  • Distance – I need Sweep to be happy being the 5 metres away from me, and not being able to see me, while he waits on his mat and I’m in the kitchen.

These are also known as the three D’s. 

Distractions

It’s good to add these in gradually, for example:

  • Start by adding in small movements when you dog is in a down on the mat, slowly making these movements bigger.  Click and throw the treat away from the mat to reset your dog.

You’re aiming to get to the point that you could stand on your head in front of your dog and they will stay on the mat!

Other distraction ideas include:

  • Moving toys (start with least favourite toys first);
  • Drop food/rustle food wrappers;
  • Play sounds;
  • Open and close doors;
  • Knock on furniture and work up to doors.

Duration

Start with low distractions in the environment.

  • Cue the behaviour, if your dog responds, wait 1 second before click and then throw the treat to reset;
  • Then mix it up your pause intervals e.g. 1 second, 2 seconds, 1 second, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 4 seconds etc.
  • Do a few short sessions (around 3 minutes) and build up the duration slowly.

Troubleshooting:

  • If your dog breaks the down then you’ve tried for a little too much duration too quickly so reduce the duration intervals and work back up to the failed duration.

Distance

Now you’ve got great duration you can start to build on your distance from the mat.  Make sure, as with all the other steps, that you take it slowly setting your dog and yourself up for success!  Once you’re there your dog should be happy staying on their mat while you’re in the next room.  Just remember when they’re behaving beautifully that you remember to go and reinforce them regularly.  If you’re not able to then fill a Kong with something lovely and that will keep them happy for a while 😊

Now I need a little training plan for how I keep Sweep out from under my feet in the kitchen and sitting happily on his mat in the dining room! 

Step 1: In kitchen, cue mat, click for a correct response and throw treat to reset.  Repeat 5 x;

Step 2: In kitchen, cue mat and turn back, click/treat on mat.  Turn back and prep food, click/treat on mat.  Open fridge door, click/treat on mat.  Open cupboards, click/treat on mat.  Slowly increase task duration;

Step 3: Start to move mat away from you and out of kitchen e.g. 1 metre, 2 metres, 3 metres, 2 metres, 4 metres – cue ‘mat’ and click/treat correct responses.  If your dog struggles at further distances, work a bit harder with the mat closer to you and then re-cue at the failed distance;

Step 4: With the mat in the dining room, I now need to move it so I’m out of sight when I’m in the kitchen.  Start to build duration while he’s at this distance and I’m preparing food;

Step 5: keep building the duration so that I only need to reinforce every few minutes, all the time making sure I set us up for success;

Step 6:  DON’T FORGET TO REINFORCE and never take this beautiful behaviour for granted!

Here’s a long version of the training I did with Sweep:

And a short version:

I hope this helps if you have a dog constantly under your feet in the kitchen!  As I mentioned in the cat training blog, please share your comments, questions and video success with me either here or on my Facebook page under the post for this blog @JustClickPetTraining.

Carol Milner

About Carol Milner

I currently live in Weymouth, Dorset (originally from Beverley in East Yorkshire). I am a certified dog trainer, graduating from the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional course in October 2016. I have owned dogs since 2001 when I got my first rescue dog Jack, a mutt extraordinaire. When I lost him I spent two years fostering dogs for a local charity and as a result I gained Odie and Sweep. Odie is the reason I became interested in training and behaviour. He demonstrates "aggressive" behaviours towards other dogs. I chose clicker training because I saw how much confidence it gives both my boys and I train mostly as a hobby with my own dogs and cats and spend my spare time with them and continuing my training and behaviour education with webinars and seminars. My passion as a trainer is in force free husbandry. If we can teach dangerous exotic animals to accept blood draws voluntarily then we have no excuse in not teaching it to our animals. I work full time as a marine biologist (to fund my dog habit!), a job I have done for 20 years. It has taught me to avoid the use of jargon while not dumbing down content, a skill I hope will help me produce a helpful blog!

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