When I first started training my new rescue “Max”, I looked at a variety of different online training courses until I eventually settled on the Karen Overall relaxation protocol. I like the concept of Mat training and wanted to learn more about it.
I was curious to know how teaching your dog to lie on a towel was going to help train them faster than some traditional exercise-based training systems.
As I studied more about the protocol, I appreciated that training that involved teaching your dog to take a deep breath could really be an effective. A proven method to teach your dog to relax and calm down, that appeared simple, all you have to do is train your dog to lie down on a blanket matter towel.
On my journey I found that this simple protocol is far more powerful than you can ever imagine: I can now have my dog stay lying down and even the most distracting and difficult alignments
Karen Overall Relaxation Protocol – Getting Started
Some of the things the Karen Overall Relaxation Protocol can help with includes:
#1: It will help dogs who get overly excited when they’re greeting someone as you can just let them stay on their mat.
#2: It can help your dog to relax, turn off and calm down if they have problems with impulse control
#3: It’ll help high energy dogs learn to relax, calm down and watch the world go by all for a tasty treat.
#4: It will help prevent dogs who are little pushy or like stopping them from drooling over you as you’re eating your dinner
#5: It will help you deal with your dog if they react around other dogs as much training will help them relax.
#6: If your dog was overly competitive, it will help them to just chill.
#7: I remember the first time I brought Max to the Vet after we spent a few months Mat training. I wanted to show off, knowing one of the first things the Vet did was weigh him. On the way in the door I popped his mat on the scales, when his turn came to be weighted, I pointed at the scales and told Max go to your mat. He just walked straight over and sat down on the scales, I couldn’t have been prouder. The look on the vet’s face was worth all the time it’s been training Max in the past few months.
#8: This training will also help you safely negotiate public transport, just put the mat on the floor of any light rail or bus and your dog will flop down on it.
Calm Dog Training – Teaching Your Dog To Take A Deep Breath
They design this protocol as a structured introduction to training your dog using a mat. While mat training isn’t new, it’s still a basic concept: your dog will learn to lie down on a blanket, towel, or mat when asked.
Through a trial-and-error process I learned that the mat, towel or blanket that you use should be fresh and not something that you just picked up at home.
it’s also important to remove the mat from the ground when not training, as it should be an instant trigger to tell your dog you want them to lie down in any situation.
It’s a very simple trade-off: if the mat is on the ground, Max needs to be on the mat, no matter what. If he’s lying on it, he’s going to get a treat.
As with any training protocol, you’re going to have to have a level of patience. While training, I took a strict approach. if Max got up two times in a row, I’ll end the training session and just give him a hug and try again later.
Calm Dog Training
As you can probably grasp mat training is a fairly simple concept, it just involves a little consistency and patience. The whole protocol takes about 15 days of training to put it in place. This program has been successfully incorporated by dog trainers all over the world for excellent reasons.
It’s laid out in a step-by-step program that is designed to progressively test your dog to the stage where Mat training becomes second nature.
Since treats are an essential part of the training process, you will need to have some on hand.
The first thing you need to do is draw attention to the Mat/blanket/towel pick it up shake it out introduce it to the dog look at it talk to it anything that will draw his attention
You can start the training in two ways
The quick and easy way is to simply put them out on the ground and tell your dog to lie down
The most effective way but the more laborious way is to shape your dog by putting them on the mat. This is the approach I took, and I believe it to be more effective.
These are the steps I followed.
#1: If your dog turns to look at the mat, click and give him a treat
#2: Any movements towards the mat or curiosity about it they can give them a treat
#3: If he touches the mat with his paws, reward him
#4: Any time he stays on the mat it should give him extra attention and a treat. The goal is to reinforce any behavior like sitting or staying on the mat.
#5: He hits the jackpot when he lies on the mat and he gets a better treat.
#6 If he stays on it for 10 seconds continue to reward him
#7 Once he did this, I tossed a treat away from the mass and repeat the steps above.
#8. You should have a fantastic treat like chicken for when they lie down
As the training progresses, treats should only be given for sitting, then lying on the mat. in my experience if you shape the dog onto the mat to begin with they will learn to associate rewards with lying on the mat much more quickly
Once I reached day 15 it was time to take Max’s training outdoors. We went from the front yard to the backyard and eventually to the park. What I was doing was gradually introducing him to a more difficult and stimulating environment surrounding him with people and other dogs.
I can now comfortably take Max to an outdoor bar, place the mat under the table and he’ll sit there just waiting for a treat. We do occasionally take the light rail and we always take the mat on vet visits. He just happily flops down and waits for me to reward him.
Max now views the mat as a happy place, he knows the line I’m not will need the good things even if the most playful dog walks by or someone knocks on the door or even the mailman pulls up he still wants his treat.
Some Important Things To Know About Choosing Treats
- High-protein foods will stimulate the brain chemistry of your dog and help them relax in a more natural fashion
- What is a healthy treat to a human can be toxic to a dog such as chocolate
- Avoid any treats that contain preservatives or artificial coloring
- Be sure to take a count of any energies that your dog may have especially with treats
- Dog biscuits while technically a treat don’t offer enough incentive for training. On the flip side some foods will stimulate your dog too much to the stage where nothing will make them relax.
- Always restrict the size of your treats. There’s something resembling a thumbnail purpose is not to get your dog fat and lazy or even bored.
- Be ready to adapt sometimes to treat you choose just won’t work be ready to change to another
- Treats are only for training purposes your dog needs to follow a well-balanced, healthy diet.
Conditioned Relaxation Dog Training – What You Should Know?
Learning to use rewards to train your dog to relax is an art form. It has to be done correctly to help your dog remain focused, keep others safe and for them to learn whatever exercises.
They should not encourage your dog to beg for food. To prevent this, keep all treats hidden behind your back in a Ziploc bag. Only one tree should be in your hand with which to reward the dog
It’s also a good idea to keep this behind your back initially to prevent staring at it and becoming obsessed about the food.
it’s important that your dog is happy to make eye contact with you and not be distracted by the treats.
As you mentioned previously the size of the treats shouldn’t be too large. You want your dog to focus on your cues, not on the slab of a treat that you’ve hidden.
If you keep the treats at the optimum size, hiding in the palm of your hand by folding your fingers is easy..
How you present the treat to your dog is vitally important. Place the treat in the middle of your palm and close your fingers around it. Present this to your dog. Knuckles up, turns it slowly without startling them and opens the hand to present the treat.
Never hand a treat to your dog using your fingers as this will encourage them to snap at fingers and cause potential injuries to children and others who are not aware of the problem.
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