Friday, April 28, 2017

Taking Matters into Her Own Paws with Pet Treater

For the first time, our Pet Treater box arrived on a day when we weren't in desperate need of some entertainment, so I put it in the front closet and decided to save it for another day.

I had almost forgotten about it, but Rye certainly hadn't. Yesterday, she had pushed herself between the sliding closet doors and was busy rustling around in there like a pig looking for truffles. As soon as I slid the doors open, I saw the brightly colored Pet Treater box with a little chunk taken out of its corner. It was clear Rye was not going to wait any longer to find out what was in our box.

Barley is happy her sister took matters into her own paws.
We were all excited to open the box the proper way and see what was inside--and we were not disappointed.

Barley's favorite part of the box is always the treats. Eventually she gets excited about the toys, but she can't even think about those until we've sampled at least one of the treats. She was happy to see that there were three different treats for her to enjoy.

One of our favorite parts each month is the Emmy's Treats Three Cheese Pleasers. These cookies are always cute, seasonal snacks and this month our treat was a bunny. Like all good dogs, they started with the bunny's ears before polishing off the rest.

The girls were also excited to try some treats we'd never had before: Pawmegranate Lamb Strips. I always feel a little weird about giving my herding dogs lamb snacks (it seems like it's one step away from cannibalism or something), but the girls love lamb snacks and these were filled with good ingredients like antioxidant-rich pomegranate and cranberries. Another plus to these treats is that they are nice long strips that are easy to break up into smaller snacks for training. In fact, I stuck a strip in my pocket when I sat down to write this so that I could encourage Rye to stay out of the closet while I wrote and she's been sitting on the back of the couch looking over my shoulder the whole time.

Our final pack of treats was a bag of BilJac PB-nanas. We've been buying these for years because they're little, but they also break into half really easily to double the number of treats you have. 

There were also two toys in the box. One was a Petlou Badger toy that grunts instead of squeaks and those types of toys always make me laugh. They just sound so ridiculous. Barley is going to get to keep this one for herself so that I can continue to laugh for a long time. My tiny terror claimed the Crinkle Soldiers Dog Toy right away. This is a dog with long camouflage legs that crinkle. Part of me feels a little weird letting her play with a soldier dog when I know that it's going to be destroyed in no time--maybe it's the fact that both of my grandfather's were veterans, so it seems a little disrespectful in a way--but it's licensed by the U.S. Army, so I guess if they're ok with it, I can be ok with it. And Rye loves this toy. It's long limbs make her look ridiculous when she's running around with it. He's lost part of an ear already, but so far all of his legs are still in tact. 

Pet Treater never forgets me, either. I might have squealed a little when I opened the box and saw the G! dog bookends. I've been looking for bookends to go on the top of my roll top desk in the library for months and haven't found any that I liked that were also affordable. These were perfect! And they are in the exact color scheme I have in my library.

I also got a box of desk notes with a cute little puppy on the front--and when I opened the package, there were more designs, including some with cats on them, so this was a big hit, too! I can never find paper when I need to jot down something quick, so I stuck this in the desk immediately. Now it's up to all of you to remind me that it's there when I can't find a piece of paper!

Pet Treater hit is out of the park again--and I'm so glad that Rye insisted we open the box because I really got spoiled this month! I think it's safe to say we're all pleased with our loot this month!

If you want to give Pet Treater a try, for a limited time you can use the code PT-BED to get a free bed (a $30-$40 value) added to your first box.

Disclaimer: We were given a Pet Treater box in exchange for our honest review. All opinions are our own. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Silly Technology

This has been one of those weeks when technology has not been on my good side. A memo that was supposed to go out about a meeting went out with a date from a meeting we had over a year ago instead of the new date (despite our administrative assistant showing me the file she sent to the printer with the correct date). The internet didn't want to cooperate while I was trying to put the finishing touches on a Prezi presentation the night before I needed it. It's been one of those weeks when I've felt like life would be a lot easier if we just stuck to chalk and blackboards.

Despite all of the technological struggles I've had, this week I also had a funny moment.

My phone has an album where it organizes pictures by people's faces. I never open this album because I rarely take pictures of people (other than my selfies with the pets), so I don't need that search option. The other day, though, I noticed that it said two people were flagged in my pictures--I knew I hadn't taken pictures with any other humans, so I was curious.

When I saw it had flagged Soth as a person, I laughed. And, of course, I added his cute little face to my list of favorite people's faces.

Does he look more human than usual here? 

Soth is glad that he's finally being recognized as the king he is.

And Barley is determined to give the camera all of her very best smiles until it recognizes her as a person, too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rye the Destroyer's Favorite Toys

Early in my relationship with Rye, I mentioned that her favorite activity is destroying things. Some days, it feels like she can just look at something and it explodes whether she's touched it or not. It was getting exhausting and expensive. Even if only bought the toys that were on clearance and spent less than $2 on a toy, they were destroyed in less than a minute when I gave them to her.

I was spending far more time picking up fluff than she was spending playing--and I had built an entire mountain of toys that needed to be mended on the top of my bookshelf because she'd destroy them faster than I could stitch them up, so I'd just pile them above her head and then spend an entire evening mending toys so she wasn't swallowing a bunch of stuffing. Walking by the shelf was getting precarious--and Rye eventually started trying to climb the shelves to get to the toys.

I knew we had to do something--she loves to play and I couldn't keep spending money on things that didn't last a full minute. And, we were going to have a landslide if I kept adding to our mountain.

After months of searching, we've finally found a few toys that meet our needs and since we know we're not alone in this struggle, we wanted to share them with all of you.

The Destroyers Club from BarkShop
We quit getting BarkBoxes a few years ago after we ended up with lots of toys that Barley didn't destroy and more treats than she could eat in a month. When we saw that BarkShop had a Destroyer's Club, it seemed worth trying out. Their website didn't have a lot of information about how the program worked, but the instructions were to buy toys, destroy them, share a picture on social media (or through email), and earn credits towards your next purchase.

Even after our purchases, I'm still not entirely clear on how they determine how many credits you earn--most of the time, we earn $4 per destroyed toy, but we've earned $8 for some and $2 for others. Overall this year, we've earned $76 of destroyers credits, though. Credits are only good for a month, so each month I place a new order--you get free shipping for orders of $35 or more, so usually I shoot for about $35 worth of toys, and once our credits are subtracted, I spend about $15 a month on toys that Rye loves and we earn more credits to order more toys the next month. They have lots of toy bundles, so we usually end up with 5 or 6 toys per order and if I ration them out for Rye, they last us up until the next order. You can use (and earn) the credits for any toys in the Barkshop, so you're not limited to the ones labeled Destroyer's Club--I emailed to make sure when Rye destroyed a toy we'd gotten during one of their sales and they emphasized they like to see any and all destruction and I earned credits for it as well. Also, some toys are stuffed with a spiky squeaky ball instead of a squeaker, so once the outer toy is shredded, there's still a toy to play with!

Bullymake Boxes
I'd seen the Bullymake boxes advertised on Facebook and I was curious about them, so for Rye's first birthday, I got her a 3-month subscription since they had $10 off codes for 3+ month subscriptions. We've gotten two boxes so far--we opted for the toy only option, which gives you 4 toys and no treats. So far, Rye has been interested in 2 of the 4 toys in each box and has completely ignored the other two in each box. Her very favorite has been a Jolly Pets toy that is a squirrel attached to a rope.

In our second box, we got a Jolly Pets Flathead toy that she loved--and promptly destroyed. She had a lot of fun pulling the crinkly material out of the toy's hands and legs and then gnawing its spiky hair off, but I was a little bummed that the toy didn't even last 10 minutes in her paws; however, Bullymake guarantees all of their toys for 14 days after delivery, so we requested a replacement toy, which is a JW ball with feet (and it's huge!) and Rye always loves those. We didn't find out until after we'd requested the toy that they will only do one replacement shipment per box, so it might have been better to wait a few days to see if the other toys held up before putting in our request, but her other favorite toy--a ball with weird nubs--has held up fine and she has hardly touched the other two toys. I'm not sure we'll continue our subscription when our 3 months are up, but the box has definitely given us a few toys that are well loved and durable.

Barley got a Benebone in a BarkBox years ago. She chewed on it a couple times--not even enough to leave a mark on it--and it sat in her toy bin until Rye arrived. Rye went to town on it and they are the only kind of non-treat chew she'll use now.

Once Barley realized Rye liked them, she decided she wanted to chew them, too, and she started growling at Rye any time Rye picked one up, so I always have to order two at a time now. While other people's dogs seem to make these last a long time, Rye gnaws the end of hers into a shiv in a week or less (I'm convinced she's watching Orange is the New Black while I'm at work). They're worth the cost, though, because they'll keep Rye busy for at least an hour once she gets to chewing--and every hour I can get her to be still is priceless.

GoDog RhinoPlay
These toys were an impulse purchase. I had a cash back deal for using my credit card at Pet Supplies Plus and they had a big display of these at the front door when we walked in. The display advertised lightweight toys made out of durable material. They honestly felt like thick styrofoam and I was sure Rye would have chunks out of them in a minute, but I put a couple different varieties in our basket and hoped for the best. 

We've had them for over a month and they're still going strong. Rye's favorite is the Flip, which is a curved disc (that reminds me of a Pringle chip). She can carry it easily and toss it in the air herself to catch; she pushes it around on the ground with her nose. She likes the Cicrq, too, which is a round thing with a square hole in the middle and a channel on one side to make it easy to hold in her mouth and easy to get a grip on if you want to tug. That one is fun to throw because it will roll on it's side for quite a ways, so she really has to work when she's chasing it. There are some teeth marks in the toys, but they haven't been punctured yet. She loved the Flip so much I ordered a couple more on Amazon for when the original one died, but they're still in the closet waiting for that to happen.

WestPaw Design Toys
On the same day I got the GoDog RhinoPlay toys, I got a WestPaw tizzi for Rye. The tizzi was far more expensive than toys I'd normally buy, but I had that cash back deal, so I went for it. I knew several of our blog friends loved WestPaw toys, but Barley normally won't touch toys that aren't stuffed, so I had never even considered getting one for her even though I'd seen them at the store many times. Rye seems less particular about what she plays with, so I decided to give the tizzi a shot--and I'm so glad I did. The tizzi is her favorite toy. She knows it by name--when she's being obnoxious, I tell her to go get her tizzi and she comes running back with it in her mouth. She'll take it up the stairs and chew on it at the top and then chase it down the stairs when it slips. She loves bringing it to me to toss. 

Shortly after getting the tizzi, WestPaw's Instagram advertised a 50% off everything Spring Cleaning Sale, so I went crazy and got several new toys--including 2 small and 2 large Toppls to make challenging puzzle toys for both dogs and 2 tuxes to fill with peanut butter for both dogs.

A tux filled with frozen yogurt is a great spring treat!

The tizzi is still Rye's favorite--and she learned how to take the toppl apart in about 30 seconds, so that hasn't been an effective puzzle toy for her (although Barley is more patient and loves working to get treats out of it without ripping it apart). 

It's taken a while, but I finally feel like I have a good arsenal of toys to keep Rye entertained. I'm still holding out hope that one day she'll learn to be gentle with stuffed toys because I love a good cute stuffed toy--but she's caught on to leaving Barley's bin of sheep alone (most of the time) and she's having a blast with her own toys in the meantime. What are your dogs favorite toys? Have you found any indestructible toys? 

Disclaimer: We purchased all of these toys ourselves and were not compensated in any way for these reviews--nor are any of the links affiliate links--we just wanted to help other destructive pups find their new favorite toys by sharing our experiences! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Downside to Cute Dogs

This weekend, Rye and I were out working on loose leash walking. This is by far our biggest training struggle. Most of the time, she looks like a feral animal at the end of the leash and I look like I could curl up in the fetal position in the middle of the sidewalk and wail at any minute.

She might be cute off leash, but on leash is another story.

This time, though, it was going pretty well. I wasn't stressed or in a hurry to get home, so we could take our time and really work through things. We looked ridiculous, I'm sure, as we would do a 360 in the middle of the sidewalk to get her back by my side when she started pulling, but she was catching on staying with me for longer periods of time than usual.

Things were going so well that we walked a little farther than usual. There's a library and a museum in our neighborhood and in the parking lot between them, there are some big yellow posts to show where the parking lot ends and the museum sidewalk begins (at least I assume that's why they're there). When Rye's having a good day, we use these posts for a training exercise. We'll start and walk to the end of the line, round the last post, and go back to the end. Then we go around the second to last post and back to the end, and continue making tighter loops each time until we do a small circle around the first post. (Here's a really bad video to illustrate--not only is hard to hold on to Rye and film, but this exercise also makes me dizzy!--but I'm not sure the explanation makes sense, so here's a visual.)

On really good days, we do it twice. Once with Rye on the outside so she can make slightly wider circles and once on the inside with even tighter circles. This particular day, we were struggling enough that we only did the exercise once because she was a little distracted by barking dogs and people coming in and out of the library at the other end of the parking lot.

When we came out of the exercise and went back to the sidewalk to head home, she was pulling again and I backed up and called her front. A car was leaving the parking lot, so we worked on a stay for a few seconds while they headed out and then we worked on our finish by having her come to my left side and sit before we started walking.

As we started walking, the car stopped in the road beside us. I looked over and there was a man in the driver's seat with the window down. He said hi. I said hi. Then he said, "I've seen about 20 people out walking their dogs today and you're the only one. . ."

At this point, I was sure he was going to say who had been training their dog. I was sure he was going to praise me for my patience working with Rye. Or ask how I'd learned to do these things with her. 

Instead, he said, ". . . where you and the dog are both cute. Well, I mean attractive. She's cute. You're attractive." 

I said thank you because what else can you say. But all it really made me want to do was go home and shower. I'm used to people stopping to comment on Barley and Rye or to ask questions about our training, but moments like this just make my skin crawl. 

I guess the only solution, really, is to make sure that my next dog is a homely beast. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

The New Nemesis

Barley wouldn't be Barley if she didn't have a nemesis. After we moved away from the Jack Russell Terrier that charged our back French doors, that position was unfilled. Of course, the dino dogs next door make her crazy, but she's gotten better at coming back in when they come out or staying with me if I can get her attention before they do.

The dino dogs also don't come out much during the winter. Apparently not every dog loves snow like my dogs do, so we've seen very little of them over the last few months.

During that time, another neighborhood dog has graciously stepped up to fill the role of Barley's nemesis.

There's a man who drives a silver Jeep and takes his small, yappy dog joy riding through the neighborhood. Every day for the last month, this Jeep has driven by us--often several times on one walk--with the windows down (even on cold days!) and a yappy little white dog hanging out the window. 

Barley usually handles barking dogs in cars fairly well. But she's decided this dog must be defeated. She hasn't lunged on walks in years, but when this Jeep drives by, she lunges, growls, and barks. If I spot the Jeep before she does, we pull off to the side and stop, and I can keep that meltdown from happening--except she won't sit or watch. She stands with her whole body tense, her ears up, and the most intense stare boring into that Jeep. Most of the time, though, the Jeep sneaks up on us and I don't know they're coming until they're too close for me to get Barley's attention first. Even after their gone, Barley is on high alert the rest of the walk, constantly scanning for other dogs and making me work much harder to keep her focus.

We've yet to figure out where this Jeep driver and his yappy companion live and they seem to travel the entire neighborhood, not just the road by the lake, so we haven't figured out how to avoid our new nemesis yet. It's been a while since Barley's had a new training challenge, so we're working on tackling this challenge one day at a time.

Barley can only handle one crazy dog in her life at a time.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Rye's Big Adventure

When I decided to take the dogs on my road trip to my cousin's wedding, I was a little worried about Rye. She'd only been on one road trip before--and it was to my parents' house. She was terrified the whole drive and wouldn't get out to potty at any of our stops. She was ok once we got to the house, but she can be a nervous little thing, so I wasn't sure how she'd handle a place none of us had been before.

I shouldn't have worried because she loved it. From the spiral stairs that she ran up and down to the trail behind the house, she was in heaven. 

There were too many critters to watch to pay attention to the camera.

Normally, Rye hates nature and only really tolerates adventures in the woods if Barley is with her, but she loved taking solo walks with me around the property (sometimes refusing to take care of her business unless I took her for a mini walk).

Right before the wedding, she decided she liked the property so much that she wanted to explore it on her own. We'd gone for a little walk on the trail before I got dressed and Rye had pottied, but Barley hadn't. I knew Barley would understand that she was just going out to pee if I got dressed and then took her out in the front yard right before we left, so I got dressed, did my hair and makeup, and slid on some moccasins to take Barley outside.

Any time I go out a door--whether it's taking the trash out at home or grabbing the mail--if the dogs aren't coming with me, I have them sit far enough away from the door that I can open it and have them stay until I get back. Even if I'm letting them into our fenced backyard, they have to sit at the door and wait--even after I've opened it--until I tell them they can go out. Rye had done very well with that at the cottage, so we started our routine and I had her sit and then opened the door. When she saw Barley going out without her, she was having none of that and darted out the door.

I tried not to panic and called her front. She started to turn to come back to me and at the same moment a squirrel darted across the driveway.

She took off up the hill beside the driveway. She'd taken off after a squirrel at my parents' house after slipping through the railings on their back porch and had just stayed under the tree until I got to her, which is also what she does in our yard, so again, I tried not to panic. I sent Barley back in the house and called my parents for back up.

My mom brought out our bag of freeze-dried lamb lung treats and I started walking in Rye's direction. When she looked at me and the treats, the squirrel took off to a new tree and Rye took off, too. Then she realized she had freedom and got zoomies. I tried to use the emergency down we've been working on in obedience, but she was having way too much fun to worry about that.

I just stood there and let her run, knowing she'd go in circles while she was that amped up.

At home, when it's dark and cold and I don't want to go out in the yard to bring her back inside when it's time for bed, I shake a bag of treats and she comes running. When I saw she was starting to slow down, I shook the bag of treats I had and asked her to come front. She hesitated for a second, but then came running full speed towards me. I asked for a sit, just like we'd practiced in obedience class, held the treat in front of her nose and took her collar before letting her have the treat. Even though I wanted to strangle her, I told her what a good, good puppy she was as we walked back towards the house--where I got her settled in her crate before finally taking Barley back out to pee.

When we got to the church for the wedding, the first thing I noticed was a stained glass window with a little beagle on it (and some really creepy, possibly offensively portrayed humans). I think someone or something was definitely watching over my little Sweet Potato Rye.

The whole experience probably lasted less than 5 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Our cottage was surrounded by uncleared woods and miles of farmland, so if I'd panicked or gotten mad, Rye probably would have gone on an even bigger adventure--and who knows how long it would have taken to capture her then. I've never been more grateful for our obedience training than I was at that moment--but I hope that we never have to put it to use in a situation like that again!

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Weekend Getaway

My cousin had an April Fool's Day wedding last weekend. Since the date fell at the end of my spring break, I didn't think twice about whether I'd be able to make the 6-hour drive for the wedding and immediately started looking for places where I could take the girls along with me and have a bit of a vacation.

My go to site for finding dog-friendly places with lots of character is, so that's exactly where I started this time. We found a few places and tried booking a place in a strange little village that had a brewery as one of it's big attractions, but those plans fell through due to the owners selling the property and not being able to transfer our reservation. Rather than rebooking through the new owners and risking a new pet policy, I kept up the search and I'm so glad we did!

I found the Dutch Country Cottage near Morgantown, PA and as soon as I read that it was a stone farmhouse from the 1700s, I was sold. I called my parents, who were going to stay with us, and made sure they were ok with a change of locations and booked the cottage.

From the moment I pulled up in front of the house, I was ready to send for Soth and move in for good. In front of the house was a huge bell--which I couldn't resist ringing--and a well that looked perfect for making wishes!

The cottage sits on 9 acres of land with a beautiful backyard that was full of some sort of little purple flowers, woods, and farmland surrounding it. I was excited the girls could have a weekend to pretend they were real farm dogs.

The girls loved the backyard even if it rained too much to play in it much.

The inside of the house was filled with even more character than the outside of the house. There was a wood-burning stove in the living room that my dad started each morning. I spent some time drinking my coffee and grading papers (because even though we were in the middle of nowhere and the cottage had no tv, it had wifi, so I could work a little bit) in front of the stove while it rained all weekend.

There was an interesting spiral staircase inside--when I saw that, I was worried that Rye might not go upstairs since she's weird about stairs sometimes. Dogs were allowed to sleep on the bed as long as you brought your own blanket to put over the bed and I was afraid Rye would want to sleep downstairs in her crate and I'd have to sleep on the couch to keep her from crying. She loved the stairs, though, and had no trouble bounding up and down them.

I loved the colors in the kitchen with the robin's egg doors and the stone walls. There were bird feeders right outside the kitchen windows and we saw cardinals, woodpeckers, several tiny birds, and lots of squirrels.

The stone walls--which we think were the walls of the original structure with the kitchen being an add on--continued upstairs with beams on the ceiling and really cool doors into the bedroom and bathrooms. There were two bedrooms--one with one bed and one with two beds--and a huge bathroom between them.

Rye saw the tub and had no interest in getting close for a picture.

You could also order sticky buns from an Amish family down the street--this might have been one of the best parts of the visit. You also had the option to go to a traditional Amish dinner with the family, but we had plans for most nights between the rehearsal dinner and the wedding--and I am terrible at small talk, so as much as I would have enjoyed the food, we opted out of that. The cottage also was stocked with homemade bread and chocolate chip cookies as well as fresh milk and eggs when we arrived.

Another great feature of the property was a trail behind the house. It was a short little trail, but we could spend about 20 minutes just enjoying the sights and smells. 

There was also a nice, long driveway that was lined with daffodils (which sadly were trampled by the rain, so I didn't get pictures) that was a nice way to extend the walk. On our first day, when we got to the bottom, an Amish horse and buggy was driving by. The girls were so interested in that! Rye was good and sat when I asked her, though. Barley refused to sit, but she was quiet and just watched--instead of barking her fool head off like she does when we see them at home.

We had a wonderful visit and can't wait to visit the cottage again. There were plenty of trails we wanted to explore but didn't get a chance to because of the rain and the wedding activities, so we definitely plan to go back some day. Rye had a little adventure of her own and we also visited a nearby State Park, but those are stories for another day.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Relax! (Or How I Trained My Dogs to Rest on a Mat)

I've mentioned how important our mat has been in our positive training journey for the last two months of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop (here and here) and there were so many questions about our mat work training that when we decided to go with teaching our dogs to relax for April's theme, it only seemed natural to keep writing about our mat.

Did you say mat?!

When Barley and I first started working with our trainer, our goal was to reset Barley so her default when I wasn't engaging with her was to relax in a down. We wanted her to do this everywhere--on walks if I stopped to talk to a neighbor, in formal classes when she waited for her turn, in the vet's office, and at home--so we didn't introduce the mat right away. Instead, we did a game similar to the relaxation protocol many people are familiar with.

Our trainer called it the one-hour down game (I don't know why since we were keeping sessions short). I told Barley to down once and when she did, she got a jackpot of treats between her front paws. Then I stood up straight and immediately bent back down to give her a treat. Gradually, we'd increase the time between treats. If she got up, I wasn't allowed to make eye contact with her or look in her direction. I just had to wait for her to figure out how she'd gotten all of those treats. The second she was in her down again, she'd get another jackpot and we'd start at the beginning again.

Eventually, we moved on to taking one step backwards and then coming right back and feeding. Then a step to the side and back to treat. We did this until I could walk all the way around Barley without her getting up.

Contrary to what you may think, this is what calm looks like at our house.

We played this game everywhere: the living room, the training center, the backyard, my parents' house and yard, parks. Slowly, Barley started to relax out of her sphinx position into a position a nice relaxed position with her hips turned. We never used a mat and she did just fine relaxing on the floor, in the grass (as long as it wasn't wet), or on the sidewalk.

A few years later, we signed up for a reactive dog class with our same trainer and she introduced the concept of the mat as a safe place for dogs to relax.

We started just getting the dog comfortable with the mat. We'd set the mat on the ground and let the dog decide to step on it. Sniffing it, putting a paw on it, or interacting with it in someway earned a treat.

A throwback to 2013: Soth was determined to make Barley love her mat.

Once the dogs were comfortable with the mat, we'd walk them up to the mat and ask for a sit on the mat. A sit earned the dog one treat. Then we'd ask for a down, which earned them a jackpot of treats. We kept doing this until the dogs learned that down was the behavior that got the biggest reward on the mat. Once they'd learned that, we started playing the one-hour down game on the mat. Since Barley was already very familiar with that exercise, she caught on very quickly to the idea that the mat is a place you relax. I could put a mat down in agility class or next to the stove while I made pancakes and she'd stay on the mat until I released her.

When I got Rye, I knew she needed to understand mats, too. We started with the method we'd used in reactive dog class, combining the mat and the one-hour down game into one exercise. However, our obedience class used a slightly different method. We brought our mats to class and the trainer would have us sit a few feet away while she set a treat on the mat. When she gave the ok, we'd point at the treat and tell the dog to get it. Eventually, we added in the command "Go to your mat." Having the treat on the mat helped build the dog's drive for the mat. Then the dogs could do whatever they wanted on the mat as long as they stayed calm, but they earned treats for laying down.

We use our mat for everything. My girls are experts at entertaining themselves if I am not entertaining them, so the mat helps prevent them from getting into trouble. Sometimes they spend just a few seconds on the mat before being released; for example, I often send them to their mat while I get food out of the oven and as soon as the door is closed again, they are released. Other times, they spend quite a while there while I do dishes or cook dinner and I periodically give them a treat--on those occasions, they usually just fall asleep. Rye goes to her mat while I fill her bowl (she even did this on her own with a door mat while we were on vacation recently!) and waits until I give her the ok to eat. All of the dogs in Rye's obedience class have mats to rest on between exercises. Often we do a little mat work before we go to bed just to get everyone to calm down a little bit.

Barley really wanted to chase my parents' cat, but trainer Soth said she had to stay on her mat.

When Barley finishes dinner before Rye does, she goes to her mat.

Barley and Rye choose to share a mat. When we first started doing mat work together, I had two mats side by side, but the girls always ended up running to the same one and laying down. Barley has always left enough room on her mat for Soth since he has been her coach through all of her training struggles, so the transition to sharing with Rye didn't seem to bother her at all. Now, I don't worry about how many mats are out before I send them to one.

Barley was the laughing stock of class when they found out she shared with a cat.

We've done many different things to train relaxation--whether it's in the house, on walks, or during play--but the mat has been the most important in our training and transfers to so many different situations.

You can even use mats to get a photo when you stay in a cool cottage.

We're happy to be joining our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop.  This month, our theme is Calming and Impulse Control--How do you get your dog to settle down? But we welcome any positive training posts and you have until Sunday to join the hop! Be sure to check out all of the other creative ways people have taught their dogs to be calm.