Saturday, July 31, 2010

SHAPING games... Exciting and Relaxing!

I LOVE it! Playing shaping games can be EXCITING or get to choose what is right for the time. They are AWESOME for developing focus for you, patience, helps with impulse control issues as it teaches them to ignore the exciting (or overwhelming to some) world around them. Being able to relax or have fun despite what is going on in their environment is really tough for some MINE :) These games help a ton!

1- we started playing these in the house
2-then moved out in the back yard
3- now we take these games on the road and play when we're out and about on trails or walks.
4-you can play for as little as 1 min upWARDS ...really up to you and knowing what body language to watch for to ensure you END the game BEFORE they get bored of it.

EXCITING shaping game:

I CALL IT  "SHAPE DANC'N with my guys which is great on so many levels to have fun and allow them the freedom to think! I say their name, they offer up a behaviour, or just look at one of them, dance a bit, then let them know it's their turn to offer something up. At first just reward everything...even if it's just standing still, then any movement, the soon enough they'll start offering up sits, downs, and all their favourite tricks in the book...reward with enthusiasm ALL of them! Remember though the structure of the game is you dance or step side to side, while they wait till you stop...then it's their turn to offer up something when you say their name or look at them.
I play it when:
* the weather is crummy,
*when I don't feel very energetic,
*when I need a injection of happiness's so cute to watch what they offer up!
*It's also a great way when you're working on a behaviour issue where they get stuck on being 'serious' or 'worried" ...if they can all of a sudden play your fun 'SHAPE DANC'N game" then you know they are working subthreshold. If they can't and they remain need to add distance between whatever they are 'stuck" or fixated on before drama unfolds.
*It's also a great way for them to owner's not worried, it's time for that fun I don't have to concern myself with what had me 'frozen' in time.

RELAXING and CALMING shaping games:

Here's our "LAZY BUMS" game spin on Dr. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. IT'S a great morning game for a SLEEPY morning person like myself. It's been AWESOME!!! It really does prove that providing feedback on what you'd LIKE to see more of behaviour wise and then letting them run with it works!
Goal of this shaping game is offering up, marking and rewarding relaxed behaviours, anywhere from:
*eye contact!
* looking in the direction of a noise and NOT barking,
*laying down preferable on their hip, rather than the pounce guys offered up pounce position so I just ran with that, as they were calm and not going anywhere.  Otherwise I could have used a handsignal to lure them on the hip 
*sitting and chilling, standing and chilling, stopping their tail from wagging
*putting their head on the ground, laying on their side,
*even offering up sleepy eyes, a big sigh, a look away from me...all calming signals...will get them a treat! Then me upping the distractions by me moving and rewarding their relaxed states, then adding a dog moving and again rewarding their relaxed states....

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Well, walking isn't the only thing KEEGAN needs a refresher on...

I LOVE the video by Dr. Ian Dunbar about adolescent hiccup where you start noticing things fall apart and article..

Don't get me wrong...KEE is amazing.  We've come so far it's flattering that other people comment on how well behaved he is, because it makes me realize how far we've come!  Then KEEGAN humbles me and reminds me how much further....we need to go :P

Anyways...we've got some work to do on giving things up, when tugging, and reinforcing a retrieve rather than KEE adding the keep away game...

I found that out today when I tried to make a video of turning an annoying thing into a game for them to enjoy...thinking of an opposite incompatible behaviour to counter the annoying and or sometimes unsafe behaviour they're engaging in.

It was supposed to be Daisy's video...but Keegan stole the show :P

DAISY, was picking up sticks and eating them.......after this gland removal issue...which is still got me all worried...the LAST thing I need is for Daisy to be eating sticks!  So instead of saying ...don't do it...I turned the table and have been asking her to pick up sticks and give them to me.

1-gives her a job to do
2- keeps her from eating sticks
3- saves me from picking up sticks ;)
4- keeps Keegan entertained at the same time...he loves to take things out of Daisy's mouth and join in on the game.

KEEGAN...who normally just takes the stick from Daisy's mouth and relays it to me...started racing around with it....cute...but that leads to a game that I don't like to reinforce "keep away" and also...he wasn't too eager to give up the stick...when playing tug...which is NEW too.  I've reinforced playing tug and the cue to give it up is me being still since puppyhood so it was a bit of a surprise to say the least when he didn't....

We'll be working more on  KEEGAN's:

1-tugging, reinforcing an automatic release when I'm still

2-also not bugging another dog taking toys out of their mouth ALL the time...that's going to get him in trouble with less lighthearted dogs than Daisy.

3-making coming to me after getting a toy or treat MORE rewarding than playing KEEP away, even though it was cute to see him all bouncy.  I'll do that using the Premack Principle, he brings the stick or ball or frisbee to me...immediately after the retrieve, then I'll get him to jump up and grab it and release him to do as he pleases with it.  That way, the retrieve loop is closed.  Playing keep away is a whole other game separate from retrieving. It's a game that I INITIATE...not KEE :P  He can play that game  on his own time, with other dogs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Walking w/loose leash has been such a treat these days !

KEEGAN was doing an awesome job, then TURNED TWO...and has been going through an adolescent brain dead phase.  He forgot all about how enjoyable walking BESIDE me could be :P   I was crushed :(
He just wanted to race full speed ahead. I made the mistake of having him off leash too often when on trails so he totally got hooked on racing around and it was tough wrapping his head around remembering that he was limited by a leash when we switched from off to on leash. He has a great recall and checks in often which made it easy for me to lazy.  Kee is such a free spirit that it wasn't a good idea on my part to let things slide.

Now....I'm so so very happy to report that we're back on track. I walk him on and off leash on trails now without any issues. I made it irresistible for him to keep his eye on me so sticking close by is always so unpredictably FUN, tasty, and adventurous.

It's important to me for all my guys to be mindful of me at the other end of the leash. My beagie boo's are AWESOME and it's nice to see KEE back by my side with a happy face instead of racing ahead.


Last weekend

We've come a long way since I shot this in the city!


1- practicing at home, in the yard, on boring sidewalks, on quiet trails at first, on and off leash, and of course adding the fun of Targeting and Shadow handling games!

2-Meet and greet practice w/family indoors and outside on and off leash!

3-Desensitizing him to being pat on the head...for when we meet people...he didn't like that much, and tried to avoid the hand landing on his head...truthfully I would have trouble with it too!

4-And of course having a history of FUN, TASTY, adventures and cuddles under our belt helps.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sniff on cue

One of the EASIEST and HELPFUL cues to capture. It TAKES THE CONFLICT out of so many situations!  And makes my guys HAPPY!  Dogs LIVE to sniff and explore! Why not make it work to your advantage.

Works wonders for dogs who need help controling their impulses like jumpy over the top meet and greeters ...KEEGAN....he was so embarrassing at first.  I nicknamed him Keegan the Kangaroo as he'd wait till he was close, then jump up, bopping people in the nose...

Here's a vid of George sniffing. These people thought he was cute, said he looked like 'Wishbone" but prefer to admire dogs from a here's a way for George to interact (because he LOVES to say hello) without annoying or frightening these people;

IT'S a great cue to pull out of your back pocket to get the dog to leave something YUCKY to us...but irresistible to them poop!  Warning this is gross but dogs love to sniff it...and eat it!

Also helpful for SOCIAL NERDS or over the top HERDING breeds...knowing what to do when they meet another dog, cat, bikers, skateboarder.... There are steps to work up to this point. ...below demonstration courtesy of Daisy.  Crazy Daisy the party girl...went through a period where she'd bark, lunge at the end of her leash at other dogs after a couple of bully experiences.  She'd had enough and just wanted to make sure other dogs knew to STAY AWAY.

The turning point for Daisy and her social awkwardness was I put sniff on cue.  I also learned a ton from Dogsmart classes for 'reactive dogs", and Dr. Karen Overall, Dr. Patricia McConnell, Leslie McDevitt et al have come out with so much research on this very topic that puts everything into perspective.  My latest favourite way of explaining the drama courtesy of the above mentioned Phd's.... is that they seek information by the only tools they have, their voice and body language (growl/bark/lunge).

Daisy's progression to understanding what TO do when meeting other dogs;

*I chose bullet proof dogs that are calm and were happy to just sit with their back to Daisy and ignore her while she sniffed from a distance.
*At first even eye contact from the other dog can make a social nerd get into the drama :)
*Eventually we'd play games parallel with eachother but again, distance ourselves so no contact could be made even if leash was fully extended and the dog pulled you off your feet until Daisy was comfortable.
*Sometimes giving the dog time to get to know the strange dog helps take the edge off the meet and greet. The more strange dogs Daisy met at a distance, the more comfortable and confident that she didn't have to be noisy to ensure the other dog respect her boundries not being too in her face and ignoring her signals that she's overwhelmed. 
*Lastly she learned to retreat if she felt overwhelmed instead of being dramatic :P

1-At first, from a distance (subthreshold), she was rewarded for air sniffing them,
2-then walking behind them and air sniffiing,
3-then beside them and sniffing, then when she was totally comfortable,
4-we worked up to this nice sniff meet and greet....all her decision. 

She let me know when she was ready for each progression through her relaxed and happy body language, and I just made sure interactions were quick at first then added duration until she was able to make the right decisions on her own.  I just rewarded her for the polite response and calm, friendly body language, each step of the way, always, always noticing if she slightly tensed up...we backed away and created distance, teaching her...if she's uncomfortable...retreat and leave. I call it, retreat with honour...I think it's from an article I read from Dr. Ian Dunbar.  That's it.

George is a whole other blog post!

Friday, July 23, 2010

SMILEY faces and biofeedback

Non verbal communication...learning how to read your dog adds such a rich dimension to your relationship. Their whole body tells a story, just like ours.

Their facial expressions especially eyes and ears are my favourite to watch. They can melt my heart, comfort me after a long day or bad day, make me laugh, let me know when they're bored and it's time to work or play.  Most importantly let me know when they need me to help them out.

You can kick things up a notch by learning how to capture their happy relaxed expressions along with calming signals and create a biofeedback loop. That was/is essential to know when you are working through behavioural challenges.

I like the way Leslie McDevitt explained it in Control Unleashed; " Every time your dog is in a physiologically relaxed state, his behaviour reflects that state.  If you mark and reward that calm behaviour, you are both reinforcing the relaxed state and sending your dog's nervous system a powerful message that eventually can cue relaxation."

I first learned about calming signals from Dogsmart, and they recommended  'Turid Rugaas book/dvd  atleast 8 years ago...then I think it was after a Dr. Patricia McConnell seminar on emotions, there was more research out relating to dogs specifically!   Mark Beckoff is one of my favourites who talk about, emotions in animals, to keep tabs on...(Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology).

I remember my "Ah Ha" moment...I was in a hurry to get to work and had brought my beagles outside to take their last pee before I left.  I remember saying 'quick pee', 'quick pee', and then a couple seconds later "quick pee" .. then looking down to see both of them stopped in their tracks, looking back at me and licking their lips. The expression on both their faces was IDENTICAL...pretty much telling me to calm the $#()@ down, I was driving them NUTS. I laughed so hard!  I was busted...

They tell me to calm down all the time, even now, as I can be happy excited about the littlest things.  I turn the tables as well when they're being pests :)

We have captured quite a few facial expressions on cue or that we will reciprocate.  Some even serve as a sort of inside joke.  It's helpful when you're teaching them cues, playing, trying to diffuse a tense situation or when I'm in conversation.  In conversations,  I  can let them know with a facial expression that I appreciate they're hanging out while I chit chat with happy, squinty eyes and tilt my head..a "how sweet and thoughtful sort of look".

I have made the mistake of being too excited in my expression when trying to tell them I appreciate their patience and to just stay put a couple more minutes.  By using a wide eye expression... bursting with excitement.. they got up as if I had cued "let's go!".  So if you can be consistent..and remember that if you want action, be expressive, wide eyes, big smile, excited!   If you want calm...use the full range of sleepy, relaxed facial expressions, slow deep breathing, big sigh...It really helps them fine tune what your expressions mean when you're consistent.  Wonder if anyone else notices that with their dogs.  Click to Calm is another great book!

It also comes in handy to diffuse a tense situation when they are over their head emotionally and need direction on what to do to work their way out of a sticky situation ( leash dogs...or people who are over the top).  They spend much of their lives reading body I don't see how facial expressions would be an exception.

HAPPY, soft, squinty EYES are my favourite!  They're so very different from Daisy's 'Bert" expression, I call it.  Closed mouth and impatient eyes when she's bored and wants a job to do!

I'll have to take pic's this weekend, my laptop died along with most of my photos...what a hard way to learn to BACK UP photos!!!! ...

 Happy Daisy waiting for me to play.

We're almost to the Estuary, one of George's favourite trails!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

GVH- here's a Puppy class outline, normally 1 1/2 hr class covers

 My step by step training blog is my latest project.......if you wish to take a peak


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SHADOW handling to the rescue!

When it comes to off or on leash "HEELING" a few of my mentors are;  Silvia TtrkmanSusan Garrett even Greg Darrett...I ABSOLUTELY can not tell you HOW much FUN it is for the dog and human to play shadow handling games. BONUS is you end up with a rock solid velcro dog, who LOVES to be close JUST because it's FUN and really rewarding!

Come to think of it, for those who never can find time to carve out for's a great way to exercise! Race around, burn calories and SPEND TIME building a bond with your dog. I have yet to meet a dog that doesn't LOVE this game! You'd be surprised that even the aloof ones get in on the fun.

You don't need to be goofy all the time, just sneak it in on your walks from time to time and they'll walk politely while keep their one eye on you for the slightest indication that you'll start the fun. Works with the Premack principle as well...walk politely without tension on the leash and...we'll play a few shadow handling games on our walk!

You can sneak this "training' in any time...ANYWHERE...and if you time it can use the environment as a "THANKS" for sticking to me like crazy glue :)

I'll update the steps and take video with my guys sometime this week, but for's a perfecto example from Sylvia Trkman's new puppy vid! 

1- following you in the water (how much fun is that on a hot day!)
2- coming to you means cuddles or jumping up into your arms!
3- coming to you means we get to play games and learn tricks w/treats!
4-coming to you means to down in front of you then scoot in beside you
5-start your heeling exercises, rewarding them for backing up, beside you, circles through your legs, tugging playing with their favourite toy as a 'thanks" for sticking so close
6-more tricks! Sneak on your belly, go to your mat
7- play with me! race with me! Then race with other dogs then come back for more fun with me!

All this builds VALUE (Susan Garrett term) for paying attention to you and provides you with the opportunity to be "in tune" with eachother. The end result is there can be other dogs, people, noise, action going on in the distance but FOCUS for you is much more FUN.

SAY goodbye to those problem behaviours of chasing, barking, lunging...the environment becomes white noise...and YOU the APPLE of their eyes.   In the end, they don't want to miss out on the fun with you.  It gives dogs who worry about other dogs, people, leaves falling, cars, bikes a job to do. Leslie McDevitt also covers this in her work as well!

There are body language cues that help the dog figure out which side to stick close to, how to move around into different positions which keep things interesting for the dog.

I've been doing "shadow handling " for years without knowing that there is a method to it which kicks things up a notch and makes it even more fun for the dog after attending a Susan Garrett Foundation Skills workshop.

I love this video, as you can see Susan's body cues clearly. You should see how amazing her dogs are on an agility course. In person they are a riot.

It's a way to keep your dog focused and learning...and provides mental stimulation! If you watch them play amongst themselves they often play this game as well!

Bonus is it's exhausting to concentrate on a task, we do it all the time. Ever feel tired after reading or when you're learning something new? You'll find it's an ideal way to burn off some steam and take the edge off, when your dog is looking for something to do and racing around is not an option.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

why I LOVE TARGET training...

The majority of all tricks and OBEDIENCE cues actually, that I teach my guys...are all based on the same foundation skills..which include MATwork & the TOUCH cue! (special thx to Leslie McDevitt for all her crazy awesome mat & give me a break games)

Targeting a place (MATwork) and nose touching something (touch cue)also come into play when teaching polite walking with a loose leash, meet and greets, stays, recalls, retrieving.  Even IMPULSE CONTROL issues like; chasing bikes, people, cars, name it! Who would think those two simple cues...can open up a means by which to communicate and teach behaviours!

ie. TARGETing a skateboard...then shaping them to ride it...the skateboard itself is place to target just like targeting a mat!

I had put the skateboard away and forgot all about it until tonight when trying to think of something fun for Daisy to do that wouldn't involve too much racing around. I'm still careful about not over doing it with the collar on and her still not completely healed.

ie.RETRIEVING games....when you think of it, there are a lot of steps involved in retrieving!  Nose touch an object, take it in your mouth and hold it, then bring it to me...and drop it in my hand.  Great thing about retrieving is you can get them to help you around the house!!!

Not only limited to things that shouldn't be laying around in the first place...but also....

Daisy normally lays quiet while I eat on a mat, but tonight, she was full of beans! I could have told her to go lay down, but really, truly...when they choose to communicate with you, enjoy that moment! She had shear happiness in her bouncy step bringing me the shoes and with her and Keegan relaying the toilet paper. All I need to do is say "thank you" and then just go back to eating...and they go back to their mats and snooze :)

The POWER of letting someone be HEARD, and then going back to what you were doing in the first surprisingly effective in dog training too!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mornings...when you're a slow moving morning person ;)

 Kee and Daisy (I'll start spelling her name correctly, although she'll always be Crazy Daizy the party girl to me) are morning birds...who LOVE to work period.  I have no flocks of sheep to herd or foxes to chase, I keep them mentally stimulated with goofy games.  They LOVE it.  George does too but he's more chilled then those two Cracker Jacks.

For example now that Daizy's getting better but still not ready to take the cone off....I have to be creative in balancing her mental and physical  101 things to do with a soccer ball!

If George were a superstar he'd be George Hamilton, always finding the sunny spot to lay in, or even Johnny Depp..who is a magnet but enjoys his privacy...doesn't like to get swarmed by the Puparazzi ;P (off leash dogs).  Keegan would be Jim Carey; a firecracker, just crazy, funny things come out of no where!  Daizy would be Joan Rivers; bossy, sensitive and you can't help but shake your head at her sassy humour ;)  I wonder if anyone else thinks of famous people that their dogs remind them of?

Back to the post topic...I LOVE waking up early but I'm a sleepy morning person.  I need to have time to take in all the morning country sounds and scents, enjoy coffee outside, read and goof around with my guys, BEFORE I start my day.  I love that happy relaxed space before the insanity hits.  Waking early also feels like I've actually had time to enjoy the day before zipping off to work or diving in from home. 

All our cues are taught in short "training" sessions.   Pretty much a couple minutes tops at a time spread through out the day.  It leaves us looking forward to the next quick session.

I LOVE Dr. Patricia McConnell's blog and her dvd's and her books and her seminars!...she's always so informative, funny and real.  This morning's blog is so sweet AND true!

What I had intended to link from her blog is a post from a while ago which was from a book she read called "The brain that changes itself"  (which I've now since read as well).   The more I read about neuroscience and what new research unveils,  the more I'm in awe with all that goes on in the learning process. We really are remarkable beings capable of wondrous things when we put our minds to it!  This is the post I was looking for..talks about training schedules.

Pretty much saying that learning in short sessions ( ours are anywhere from 10 sec - 2 min).. really does keep their enthusiasm high, everyone engaged, neither of us (dog or me) get bored or frustrated from one too many boring repetitions, and it sure works with my insane work schedule.  Plus...proven to work with how learning takes place!

Dr. Karen Overall's dvd FROM LEASHES TO NEURONS & PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY  explains how from a molecular level the brain actually works to learn something...I HIGHLY recommend that dvd!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Crossing my fingers, toes and eyeballs Daizy continues to improve!

This evening was the first time in over a week that Daizy seemed back her her happy, feisty, cheerful, playful self.

I didn't let her play much only because I didn't want the stitches to open up, but it was tough when it made my heart happy to see her all bouncy and trying to get in the thick of things.

She's still oozing a bit from stitches and still swollen under her jaw but only about 1/4 of what it was's hoping the meds will continue to work their magic!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Daizy surgery to remove Mandibular and Sublingual Salivary Gland

What a crazy couple days. I wasn't going to write about this but I should document it as there wasn't much on the internet when I searched for it. Maybe it will help someone else if they have to go through this.

What started out:

Jun 26- Sat = afternoon feeling lethargic and not wanting to eat (I ended up coaxing her with a smoothie in 1/8cup at a time portions..water,greens, cucumber, and added roast chicken)
Jun 28- Mon = noonish noticed her throat swollen all of a sudden
Jun 29- Tue = vet appoint, bug bite/allergies...wait a couple days
Jul 2- Fri = swelling went down in throat, but jaw still swollen around bone
Jul 4- Sun= swelling returned worst, under throat and down throat, 
Jul 5 - Mon= vet check- anti inflamatory and antibiotic prescribed, talked to Rita she helped me clear my head and look at options (talked about Dr. Susan)
Jul 6 - Tues= noticed small clear patch under jaw on fur...thought it was drool
Jul 7 - Wed= morning, swollen so much started to bleed through her skin, looked like she was shot in the throat, vet appoint afternoon, decided surgery only option.
Jul 8 - Thurs= surgery (home I fed her greens smoothie, roast chicken, and then honey later on)
Jul 9 - Fri = Daizy seems in better spirits, hoping she can keep meds down & body takes care of swelling...and makes sure no infection is left over.
Jul 10-Sat= Dr. Honey took a look and took the drain out.  

Warning Graphic Picture at the very end....

Here's Daizy the day after surgery. I kept things pretty low key but still fun in short bursts.

I'm hoping that things will continue to get better. Now's just a waiting game and making sure I keep the area clean and feed her healthy foods, rest,keep things as happy and normal as possible(just less racing around), continue on with anti inflammatory and antibiotics.

In the Raw Pet Food is where I get all my scoop on what foods can help her heal, and boost her immune system. For smoothies I'm avoiding all milk products, acidic veggies/fruit, and using soothing veggies (cucumber, zucchini, greens...) and fruit (blueberries, melons...), with a teaspoon of honey (without milk products so the antibiotics can work full strength). Meat I'm feeding her is cooked chicken (white meat has anti inflammatory properties), or scrambled egg. A quarter piece of toast and peanut butter to help hide those pills! So far so good!

link below has info I found really really helpful:

Post Op care to keep area clean. Daizy was grouchy because the drain and stitches area was red and swollen, so I came up with this compromise. I soaked a dish towel in the saline solution (warm water and salt), leaving quite a bit of water in the towel, so it sort of rinses the area at the same time. Then wrapped it around the her head,and put a bit of pressure where I needed to make sure it was blotting the drain area and removing the gross stuff. I did this twice. First time to rinse and absorb the guck, the second time to make sure the area was clean. Incase anyone needs an alternative to blotting a sore area to clean it out...thought I should post it.

Daizy helps dry her stitches

Photo Courtesy of the amazing surgeon Dr. Tom Honey.   You don't know how lucky I am that Squamish has such high caliber veterinary care out here!  Plus wonderful wonderful warm, compassionate spirits to boot!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bite inhibition 101

Learning how to play gently using their mouth is such an important social skill.  George was great with Keegan as a puppy...and it sure has paid off, especially since Keegan is 4 times the size of George!  Bottom vid is of Taiki and Keegan...they're a riot.  

They learn so much through play. How much pressure from mouth is enough or too much and even how to have a squabble and not leave a mark!  All my guys went through puppy class. They met tons of puppies all shapes and sizes and also gentle older dogs (Owner of Dogsmart , Alice Fisher's dog,  Quilla and Kiernan, Trainer Rita's dog..both LOVE to work ).

Then I tried my best javascript:void(0)to pick the calmest dogs on we met on the street and at the park as well.

ps...I work on human bite inhibition as well, through games with toys ... I don't use my mouth :P

Kee vs Georgie

Kee vs Taiki

Taiki just LOVEs to zoom under Keegan and has even inadvertently bitten him in the privates :O

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Using nature as rewards to practice cues

I just love finding ways to use their environment as a reward when practicing a cue.

Last weekend tall grass was a favourite to practice "go", which means to race ahead.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Working on "Leave- it "games using a mat ( Control Unleashed )

I'll just load this page up with Leave-it video clips as we play them.

1- Videos working on LEAVE -IT from a mat first

My favourite mat to use is a yoga mat these days, ever since working on Passive Attention on it in the yard.  I've built a Conditioned Emotional Response for that mat now = mat is HIGHLY valued, and REWARDING place to hang out :) 

I LOVE that it is big enough for me to:
 *work on calming exercises on it, massage, tummy rubs, chill-axing
*easy to take anywhere (outdoors, to a friend's place, in home), rolls up, compact,
*washes up quickly
*comfy with some padding for the dog, no slip....
*big enough so I can throw rewards or treats on it!

My criteria for dog's body position:

*body parts on the mat in a down position.

I'm looking to capture the action of the dog turning his head to 'look back" to me. So they check in with me before chasing something; bike, car, skateboard, person....or even eating something on the ground....

Starting in the quiet of your home with stationary objects is the first step.  You'll gradually add tougher distractions once they have solid down/stays, sit/stays, stand/stays... without asking for them.  If you build from a solid foundation...the end result will be a dog who looks to you before acting on their impulses.  And best of all who becomes desensitized to the triggers that drive him nuts!

I only introduce a word or cue once they offer up the behaviour 99% of the time. That's when it's safe to introduce the word you will use for 'leave it", as they'll begin to associate that word with what they do when you say it. "Leave it" will mean to look back at me from whatever you're engaged with, and I'll let you know what comes next.

What you're going to capture and reward...the purpose of these games:
1- when the dog begins to look away from whatever's on the ground, mark that second in time with a crisp "yes!" then immediately give them a reward. You will slowly get longer eye contact once they understand what the game is all about.

Trouble shooting if the dog moves towards the stationary "distraction"

1- if dog moves forward, use your body and move slightly forward, or cover up whatever's on the ground, normally puts enough pressure on the dog to back up. Using your body language to let them know what you'd like them to do...move away and leave whatever is on the ground alone.  No yelling, or charging at them or aggressive displays from you required.

2- or having a cue like "back it up" which lets them know they need to move handy! I'd prefer to redirect them and let them know what I'd prefer they do, if they need my help to be successful in staying away from whatever's on the ground.

Here's a variation with Daizy using a bumper mat. I like these too. I prefer that the mat is larger than the dog when they're laying down.