Train Your Dog Challenge, Month #1

Well I am a day late in posting this  but I am not letting that stop me.  It has been a busy week, and it won’t be slowing down anytime soon as we are now up to 6 training dogs in the kennel.   Some of you may have read a bit about the train your dog monthly challenge I joined, if not you can find info here. I still need to figure out how to link up with the other blogs, and add a badge to my site. Anyone want to explain all this to me in simple terms?

But on to the challenge.  This month I decided to take the first steps in climbing a mountain, metaphorically.  The mountain is called “get Luna to relax on a mat.”  Sounds simple to some of you probably but how many of you live with a vizsla?  Being patient and sitting still is not usually in the breed description, especially if it is not their idea in the first place.  It is one thing to lay nicely on an soft surface like a crate mat, it’s another thing to be content and relax while doing so… again those two adjectives are not usually used by a Vizsla.


But just like this girl likes to break the vizsla mold of typical-ness, I like a good challenge especially if it will make our lives more pleasant.  There have been many times I wish to have her lay calmly at a restaurant, or take a break from working a trick to calm down… and if we ever get around to taking an official class laying on a mat will really come in handy.


We prepared a variety of treats, my girl isn’t picky but I figured I would mix it up.  There are cheese bits, Kix cereal, hot dog pieces, carrot pieces, and some kibbles.  If I was really high tech I may have picked a bowl with dividers for treats or something but Luna doesn’t mind if they touch each other, and I have yet to invest in a treat pouch (I am frugal, and still am convinced I can make a better one than most on shelves).  She also rarely actually chews them so I doubt she can even tell the difference between pieces.
So on to the first mini goal, get her to lay on a mat when presented with it.  I began by placing it on the kitchen floor and just waiting and seeing if she would offer the behavior.  She got pretty good at going to the mat, touching it with her paws.  But eventually she started getting frustrated and going to her default behaviors, pawing and talking. I then asked her to sit on it, but thought too much help would only add another hurdle we had to get over. So instead I asked around to see if someone could give some ideas on how to get her to lay on the mat.


A fellow blogger Tena said I should work on the “down” right before I plan to bring out the mat.  Jackpot for some nice “downs” and then add the mat.  Sure enough that did the trick. She was happily offering downs and jumped right to doing it on the mat no problem without me asking.  So that mini goal can successfully be checked off the list.  Now we just have to tackle the beast of being calm on the mat.  So far it’s not going the greatest, I am still trying to think outside the box for ways to get quiet from her.  As I mentioned she likes to talk when being impatient or frustrated, and if you want to know how good she is at talking feel free to go watch this video

I figure the plan of action as of now is to slowly stretch the time between treats. That’s the only plan I have come up with so far anyway. 

Here is a video of us working on this goal.

This is probably the most boring video you will ever watch, maybe a tiny step above watching paint dry but hey I have to prove we worked on it somehow.   For this video we worked for 3 minutes and 20 seconds straight, I could have gone longer but I didn’t want to bore you.  Session lengths with her varied but usually lasted until the prepared treats ran out or the barking became too much for my sanity.  After this session I released her with a “free” and I went to put the camera away. When I came back into the kitchen I found Luna laying on the mat looking relaxed and expectant.  I was so tickled to see her make that connection all on her own, of course I praised her and threw a couple treats.  It really gave me hope that this might actually be a possibility if we keep working on it.   This has been an idea and goal in my head for a long time, I am glad I finally bit the bullet and have finally tried, and will continue to.

Now on to February.   A goal has not come to me yet but I am sure I will think of something.

PS. if you have trouble with the video please let me know so I can fix it. It has been a long time since I posted any videos.

About Anna

I am a native of Virginia but recently relocated to Maryland I often feel I am simply a visitor... here to take note of little things people often pass by... I enjoy photography, family, the outdoors, reading, my vizsla... etc etc
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12 Responses to Train Your Dog Challenge, Month #1

  1. Wow, what great progress Luna is making. Great job.

    I practice Honey’s settling on a mat when I’m cooking dinner. Every so often I’ll toss her some food. Now, she immediately goes to her bed and stays there whenever I’m cooking.

    So glad you joined the challenge. And I’m happy to walk you through adding the badge and joining the linky list. But instead of boring your readers with instructions in your comments, why don’t you send me an email at somethingwagging at gmail dot com.

    • Anna says:

      Thanks so much for hosting this, and bothering to read mine, it will be good to have others to help hold accountable.

      I am thinking of integrating the mat into others areas of the house eventually. She sleeps all day on all sorts of beds and the couch so it’s not a complete foreign concept. But me asking her to do it is a different story. The whining is what I want to try and avoid when on the mat, she frequently will pout and whine when she knows something is coming. She waits on a mat for her dinner already, she kinda started that on her own as that is where I feed her raw meals. It’s so cute to see her going there and sitting on her own until I notice. Of course she has trained me well and I often feed her shortly after.

      I seemed to have figured out the linky part, it was quite easy. I will look further into a badge and email you if I can’t figure it out.

  2. Elissa says:

    Awesome! I have a vizsla who is 4. He doesn’t like to sit still, either, but I actually just posted about training my pup (who is not a vizsla) to get on a mat!

  3. Our Alfie is not a Vizsla, but an Entlebucher Mountain Dog and believe it or not, but I have exactly the same ‘problem’. Alfie is 3 years old, and although he would lie on the ground for as long as I told him to there is no way he would actually relax. He would lie looking at me and await further instructions, throwing in the occasional bark to let me know he is there! 🙂

    I was thinking, perhaps you should continue the same training as above, but make sure you do it after walkies when she is really tired and relaxed already?

  4. Claire says:

    In our reactive dog class the teacher had us massage the tips of our dogs ears, which is supposed to be calming, while they were lying on their mats. Also she had us think of the first time we saw our dog and what we felt and thought. I did these things but Indi still did not relax 🙂 You could also work on having Luna roll onto one hip which is a more relaxed position. I used a lure to turn her head toward her body while she was in a down and then when her hip moved over, click and treat.

    • Anna says:

      haha yeah I have a feeling it would last for 2 seconds with Luna. When waiting at shows and stuff I have resorted to rubbing her ears too, and letting her place her head between my legs… sometimes even climbing into my lap, it only works for so long. She actually knows the “relax” command, and will kick out a hip when I ask. Physically she is quite relaxed on the mat, but mentally she is not. Does that make sense? I will keep working

  5. Great job with Luna – she looks totally comfortable on the mat!

  6. Abby says:

    Great post! It looks like she’ll have this behavior down pat in no time!

  7. Kristine says:

    I love your bowl of treats! I am not one for treat pouches either. We went through so many in agility when I used them as tug toys, I don’t have the heart to buy them any more. Besides, I was always far too vain to actually wear one on my belt.

    It looks to me like you made a lot of headway in a very short time. Shiva knows to lay on a mat after all of our years in classes but I don’t know if she will ever be able to mentally relax while doing so.

    Good luck with your next challenge! I love watching Luna work.

    • Anna says:

      I remember the treat pouch debacle! Have you tried the ones that ARE actually tug toys? I finally got around to browsing clean and saw all kinds of training goodies I wanted. And I am SO with you on the being too vain for treat pouch on the belt lol. Sad huh, we need to get over ourselves. 😉

      We have made headway physically but the mental will be hard. I have a feeling I will need to be constantly feeding her to keep her content. Maybe if I shove enough in her face she will get tired from eating and relax?

      thanks for being a supporter 😉

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