The Most Important Exercise for Multiple Dog or Puppy Owners Part I

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The Most Important Exercise for Multiple Dog or Puppy Owners Part I

by Aidan Bindoff

If you have more than one dog or puppy living under your roof, then this is one of the most important and useful exercises you can teach. Without this exercise (or something very similar), one of your dogs will probably learn to bully the other dogs out of the way for attention or food. This exercise lays the foundation for happy, well-mannered multiple dog homes.

What we're going to do is teach each of our dogs to stay on a Mat while we pay attention to, groom or feed one of our other dogs. The mat gives our dogs a clear place to go to and a boundary to stay within. If we have multiple dogs we can send each dog to their own individual mats. This removes any confusion about what our dogs are to do, and removes the need to place our dogs in position. If you have several dogs, it could be quite time consuming to place a number of dogs.

To start with, teach each dog individually to "Go to Mat". A "Mat" is either a dog bed you can easily move around, or something as simple as a towel on the floor. We'll just call it a "mat" from now on.

It's always easiest to teach a new behavior in the lowest distraction environment you can find. For most people, this means finding a boring room such as the bathroom, and locking your other dogs out while you work with one dog at a time.

Have a bowl or bag of small, tasty treats, your mat, a clicker, and a dog who hasn't eaten a meal yet today. If you don't own a clicker, you can substitute with verbal praise, but make it short, sweet and consistent; e.g "good!" or "Yes!"

Full instructions for training "Go to Mat" can be found here.

Train each of your dogs, one at a time, to Level 3 with a full 1 minute stay according to the instructions given. Practise it in different rooms of the house, and maybe even out in your yard.

Stay tuned for Part II, where we'll learn how to teach our dogs to go to their mats as a group.

Aidan Bindoff is Editor of, a free resource for people training their own dog. Each edition is packed with helpful tips for training your dog using the latest pet-friendly methods that work fast and don't require a degree in animal behavior to use.

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