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How To Teach Your Dog To Settle

Teaching your dog to settle may actually be easier and more doable than you’d think. Settling comes in very handy when you have guests over or if you’re out at an outdoor restaurant. I also recommend clients have their dogs settle at different times of the day to help prevent unwanted behaviors.

For starters, dogs can enjoy the settling process. When we break this down into steps and reward them each step of the way, they look forward to doing it. A settle is basically a down/stay for random food rewards. Where we start and where we end are two totally different places. Let’s break it down.

1. Teach your dog to down. You can also work on this in a “sit” if your dog has trouble downing and they will likely settle themselves into a down to get more comfortable. Here is a video to give you some guidance if you need to teach your dog to down.

2. Incorporate distractions. Once you’ve taught your dog to down, you’re ready to add in distractions. I like to start off by using food distractions. You can dangle food in front of your dog’s face and if they are able to hold the down with the temptation present they get the temptation as a reward! (Be sure to reward them in the down position.) This video gives you a visual of how to incorporate food distractions (and other steps of stay.) Once you’ve practiced with food distractions you’ll be ready to add in the “real life” distractions. For this to be successful you’ll need to reward very often to start. (Every couple of seconds.) And you’ll also need to add as much distance as needed for your dog to succeed. Once your dog is to the point where you can reward every 10-20 seconds you’ll be ready to shave off 5 or so feet. Continue to try to increase time between rewards and decrease distance between your dog and the distraction.

3. Work on duration. If your dog is doing very well with lying down and staying with the distractions present you’re ready to continue to add in time between rewards. When doing this, you’ll want to reward randomly to keep your dog guessing. After practicing for a few days you’ll notice your dog start to kick their hips to the side and patiently wait for the next reward. It’s very doable to work up to 1, 2 or even 5 minutes between rewards!

4. What to do if your dog breaks the down/stay. This is going to happen from time to time. If this happens, encourage your dog to get back onto their mat (assuming you have a mat there) and have them down. In general you’ll want to avoid rewarding them right away if you have to reset them because some will catch on that breaking the stay gets them rewarded. If this happens you’ll notice your dog getting more amped up instead of settled. If you have to reset them, try to wait 10-20 seconds before rewarding again. And if you’re noticing a pattern where your dog keeps breaking you’ll need to increase the reward delivery speed for a small period if time before you can get back to where you were.

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