If you’ve been a client of mine or spent much time around the business, you may know of my love of mat work. There may not be a magic button to solve every problem, but mat work comes pretty darn close. If nothing else, it always helps a situation.
For those of you who don’t know, mat work is the behavior of asking your dog to go to a specific location and stay there until you release them.
It sounds like a fairytale – your dog staying in one place until you release them while other things are going on? “My dog could never do that!” I’ve heard it before and I know it seems crazy that even your dog could do it. But I promise, with some work, every dog is capable of this behavior.
I love mat work because of its versatility.
Are you a family who loves to go to patio restaurants and eat dinner while enjoying the hustle and bustle around you? With mat work, your dog can easily come with!
Are you a family who likes to have people over to your house, but hate it when your dogs crowd your guests’ space? Mat work to the rescue!
Do you hate it when your dogs beg at the table for a scrap of food? You guessed it, mat work can once again save the day.
Especially for families with kids, mat work can be a great way to include your dog while also allowing your child freedom to move through the space safely. And when done well, a mat can become your dog’s safe space where they learn to take themselves when feeling uneasy.
Mat work won’t solve more serious behaviors such as reactivity, resource guarding, or fear of strangers, but it can be a useful tool in your toolbelt. It is also nice to have in multidog households when dogs need to be calm for a little while.
We also need to keep in mind that with mat work, we are given more responsibility at that time to the welfare of our dogs. It is unfair to ask them to be on their mats for extended periods of time without anything to do. Asking for many hours of staying in the same space is one way to ruin your dog’s desire to perform that behavior. Keep your dog’s needs in mind as you work on building this behavior. Advocate for them throughout training.
Mat work is fun and impressive, but more important, it is useful for daily life. This behavior is an excellent way to restore balance to your chaotic household.