We listed a variety of applications at the beginning of this article. Here’s a little more detail on each one:
- Polite greetings: Visitors coming? No problem! Give your dog a cheerful “Place” cue to send her to her mat when the doorbell rings. Let her stay there while the visitors enter. After you’ve greeted your guests, ask them to walk over to your dog and greet her there. If she gets up, they step back and you cue her to return to her mat. After they’ve greeted her, give your release cue, and be ready to send her back to her mat if she gets too enthusiastic. (Remember to always keep your “Place” cue cheerful! You want her forever to have a very positive association with her “Place.”)
- Parking place: Your dog has such a solid mat behavior that you can use it to “park” her any time you’re going to be hanging out for a while in a public place – at a dog-friendly restaurant, your dog’s training class, your child’s classroom, while you sit on a bench at a park, or anywhere else.
- Happy place: This is one of my favorites. Because your dog now has a super-positive association with her mat, you can use it to help her get happy or get brave. Any place she might be worried, she is likely to be less worried if she is on her mat. This is perfect for the waiting room at the veterinary hospital, the scale, or the exam room floor (or table, if your vet uses one), to give her confidence and traction, or anywhere else that mildly stresses her, such as practicing below-threshold counter conditioning procedures. (However, remember to give her dozens of happy mat experiences for every one time you use it as a de-stressor, so you don’t poison her happy association with it.)
- Any place: You can put a mat in every room in your house, so you can send your dog to a mat at any time, in any room. Take one (or several!) when you go visit your relatives and have the same convenience. For maximum versatility, teach your dog the names of different mats in different rooms of the house, so you can send her to a mat in any room from anywhere in the house. Wow!
- Safe place: This is my other favorite application. If two of your dogs are looking like they may be headed toward a tense confrontation, a well-installed, happy “Place!” cue can avert disaster and send each one cheerfully to his own mat. In order for this to work, the dogs must have very clearly established, distinctly separate mats (to each his own!), and you have to take the time to train them both to go to their own mats when you give the cue – first each one alone, then together.
There can also be value in teaching each dog a different cue so you have the option of sending one to his mat but not the other – for example, “Rocky, place! Wendell, mat!”
You can also use it for other-species safety. Perhaps your dog is fixated on your cat, not in a good way. “Place!” Perhaps your dog is guarding a resource (you) from your partner’s attentions. “Place!”
Just make sure you richly reinforce this behavior to keep it fresh and appealing to your dog.