As the days become shorter and the weather colder, we pull out our comfiest pair of slippers and unearth our favourite movies – ready for cosy nights inside by the fire! Just as we like to hide away from the cold in winter, so too do our furry friends. They too enjoy a cosy bed inside a safe, warm house. Spending quality time together is very important with your furry family member, and can help everyone physical and mental health.
There are plenty of simple and fun training activities you can practice to help your dog get used to being inside this winter. One simple activity to encourage your dog to display calm behaviour indoors is ‘mat settling’. Providing a mat for your dog to lie on while you watch TV, prepare dinner, or entertain guests can help everyone relax in the home. Most dogs learn to love their mat because they should receive lots of yummy rewards when lying on them!
So how do we teach a dog to settle on a mat? It’s easy!
- Stand with your dog beside the mat and say ‘On your mat’, lure the dog onto the mat and then reward with a treat
- Release the dog from the mat with a word such as ‘Ok!’, letting them move off the mat. Do not offer a treat for this behaviour. Repeat steps 1-2 a few times per session
- When your dog can happily move on and off the mat, give the ‘On your mat’ cue, lure the dog onto the mat and then lure into a down position (you won’t need to use a ‘down’ cue here), rewarding when the dog lies down.
- When your dog easily steps onto the mat and lies down, you can remove the lure and instead give a hand signal. Give the ‘On your mat’ cue and give the hand signal. When the dog gets on the mat wait silently and still until they lie down (they should remember to do this if you have done enough repetitions of steps 1-3!) Give a treat reward as soon as the dog lies down.
- You can increase the amount of time the dog will lie on the mat by rewarding several times, one after the other, when the dog lies down (try dropping the treats between the dog’s front paws)
Success! When your dog can respond to the ‘On your mat’ cue by hopping onto their mat and lying down for a few seconds, you have successfully created a mat settling behaviour. As we head into the colder months, here are some other great winter tips to remember:
- Buy your pets lots of warm items for this cold weather; these items could consist of warm beds, blankets, and coats.
- Keep up your animals exercise routine! You and your furry companion may find it harder to leave the house this winter but keeping up with their exercise routine can be beneficial for their physical and mental wellbeing.
- Winter also calls for regular health check-ups. To ensure any pre-existing conditions have not worsened and to make sure no other issues have arisen with your animal’s health.