Teaching Your Dog to Settle

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Goal: Teach your dog to settle down and be quiet when you cue them to "settle". With this cue, your dog can readjust their body but must stay lying down in one place.

When and where to use "Settle"

  • You can use "settle" for your dog to learn to settle down after an exciting walk or play.
  • Your dog can "settle" on a mat or bed when you're busy doing housework, working on a computer, talking to a neighbor outside, etc.
  • "Settle" can be used to teach your dog to settle in different environments, such as when you go to a friend's house, a dog-friendly store, or a veterinary or training facility.
  • "Settle" can also help teach your dog self control.

What you need

  • Start with your dog on a leash in quiet room, with a mat or dog bed near you.
  • Have 20-30 of your dog's favorite treats ready.
  • Practice 2-3 times a day for 5-10 minutes each.

How to train "settle"

"The Do Nothing Settling Game"

  • With your dog attached to a leash, sit down on a chair and give your dog enough leash to sit, lay down, stand up and turn around. You're not holding their body down by the leash, but keeping them from going too far.
  • Stay calm and ignore your dog and wait for them to settle, and eventually they will lie down. When they do, praise and reward them with a treat.
  • Continue to treat them and praise for lying down for a few seconds then release them.
  • Gradually, a few seconds at a time, increase the time that they are laying down before you treat and praise them.
  • Release your dog from the "settle" by coaxing them upwards and saying a release cue such as, "Ok," or "Free." Then repeat the exercise.
  • After your dog is successfully lying down within 1 minute of you sitting down and ignoring them, you can name the settle cue. Say "settle" as you sit down.
  • Keep extending times during training sessions until your dog can "settle" for a few minutes to 30 minutes at a time. Puppies will need shorter timeframes; just a few minutes is enough.
  • Release your dog and repeat the exercise. After 10-20 successful repetitions you can now add going to their "mat/bed" to "settle." More information about teaching your dog to go to a bed or mat

Tips and Next Steps

  • Don't release your dog right after giving them a treat or praise, wait a few seconds then give release cue. The reward is the release; you don't need to give a treat.
  • Some dogs settle easier if their body is in a position with their hips lying on their side instead of in 'sphinx' position. To move them into this position, ask your dog to "down." Then take the treat and hold it in front of their mouth but behind your fingers so they can't get to it. Have them follow the treat as your hand stays low by their mouth, but moves back and to the side of their body toward their elbow. When your dog's hips rotate to the side, praise and treat.
  • Once your dog is 90-95% successful in low distraction area, gradually add in distractions. More information about improving how your dog responds to cues
  • Teach your dog to settle on different surfaces, like on the mat/bed, the floor or on grass.
  • Teach your dog to settle in different environments, such as back yard, local park, outdoor cafe, or at the bus stop.
  • Practice as often as you can, have your dog "settle" when you're eating dinner, when you're watching TV or reading a book.

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