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Old 05-21-2010, 08:51 AM
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Default Question about mat work.

Sorry for all the question threads

I am doing mat work with Frodo, but I'm not sure what the best way to go about it is, and people use so many different methods.

The biggest split there seems to be is whether or not to put the mat on cue. I know a lot of people do, and it seems like a good idea, but I was reading Nan Arthur's book, Chill out Fido, and her method is to teach the dog to default to the mat when they're stressed. She says that telling a dog to go to the mat can potentially make a nervous or stressed dog more stressed, because even if they are doing what they are told and go to the mat, it doesn't mean they are going to feel any calmer. Where as if the dog goes on their own, and it's been taught as a calm point (the training is rewarding calm behavior and calming signals on the mat), then they will self calm on the mat.

I guess I am just not sure that a dog will eventually go to the mat themselves when they are stressed I guess.
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Old 05-21-2010, 09:03 AM
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I don't know...I put "go to your mat" on command, and then tell her to "down". I'm working on building down into being an off switch. When Lucy downs, she's still hyper vigilant and ready to pounce or bolt off if she's triggered, so I'm shaping calm behaviors in the down position (relaxed tail, soft eyes, etc).

As my agility instructor said, dogs don't fake being calm. If they look calm, they are. It's starting to get to the point where I can tell her to go to her mat, and she'll chill out a little bit (till something runs past, at least).
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Old 05-21-2010, 12:28 PM
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I think that teaching default behaviors wherever possible is superior on several levels, including the idea of reducing stress because the dog confidently learns, really discovers how to direct himself and in this case, calm himself by himself without having a "drill seargent" telling him what to do all the time. Stress can become the cue to go to a safe place, whether it's a mat, crate, safe room, whatever. He will know when he's stressed before you do and may learn to intercept or nip it in the bud if he learns the routine of going to the safe place.

Capturing behavior rather than cuing it...then reinforcing will lead to putting the behavior on default. If he never goes there and you can't capture it, help him onto it and then fade the helping. Be sure you have a calm area for the mat, a pleasant, quiet experience on the mat. (treats, a favorite chewy etc) If it becomes a favorite spot, where the atmosphere is what calms him or makes him happy, he'll go to it on his own.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:32 PM
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I never thought of doing this, but it's a SPLENDID idea. Does it have to be an actual mat, or can it just be a delineated area? (My dogs don't like mats.

We need a shrug smilie.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MPP View Post
We need a shrug smilie.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:50 PM
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No, it doesn't need to be a mat at all. The idea of the mat is to mark a specific place for the dog to recognize. A crate or special room would be fine. I think the idea is to make the area specific, well marked so there's no confusion to the dog where to go. But the mat is mobile, something you can take with you other places where you might like to have it. You can condition your dog to liking a mat. Just pair it with stupendous treats, his dinner, a special toy, lots of praise and attention. He'll soon change his tune about mats. LOL.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:02 PM
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Thanks for the input everybody! I think I am going to stick with not putting it on command.

Quote:
The idea of the mat is to mark a specific place for the dog to recognize. A crate or special room would be fine. I think the idea is to make the area specific, well marked so there's no confusion to the dog where to go.
I think this may be a little bit different from what Nan Arthur does. In her program you use the mat, then take the mat on the road with you and use it out in the world. But she also eventually fades the mat, so that the dog will default to laying down near you when they feel stressed.
I need to go back through the book again, but I am pretty sure she eventually fades out the mat.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:09 PM
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Well yes....it's a training tool to help the dog learn how to calm himself. Starting with one special place will lead to generalization to other places...non-specific or varied places. It's just like a lot of things when we train our dogs. We start out with teaching our dogs to come when in the living room. Then we go out in the yard where there's little distraction. When they're good at that, we try out in the woods or somewhere else. So, here, you're starting with a mat. The dog is learning to go to a place which is paired with a calming effect...one simple, marked spot. Then he'll learn how to calm himself. Then he'll learn to go to another place and still be able to calm himself, then a place without a mat, etc.
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Old 05-22-2010, 12:04 AM
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I never heard of it put that way. Just as a dog can view his crate as a safe refuge, I guess a mat would work the same way. If it is in a safe area, and if you go with the dog and to relaxation methods with him, it sounds great. We've used the knitting basket (switched that quickly to a different basket), the crate, under the table, whatever. I've always liked the idea of a mat because it's easy to travel with or change to a different place.
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Old 05-22-2010, 12:35 AM
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So I'm certainly new to all this but this just baffles me... how do you get to the point where the dog goes to the mat on their own when they are stressed? Maybe it's simple, I don't know, it sounds complicated.

We're doing mat work in our foundations class... shaping the behavior to the point where the dogs automatically lie down on the mat... and I suppose the expected end result is that the behavior is on cue. I would actually like to teach Juno to CALM DOWN when she's on the mat as well. Because at the moment when she is instructed to lie down anywhere, she's in a ready-to-pounce position and she's very alert to everything. I'd like her to chill out.
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