Teaching your dog to settle is a process of capturing moments of calm behaviour and offering ample rewards—but never forcing the issue. You must be prepared to patiently wait until a time when your dog is naturally less stimulated, instead of demanding obedience and impatiently saying for example, “sit, sit sit!”
You yourself MUST be the epitome of calm, in order to successfully capture and reward calmness in your dog.
What You’ll Need: A mat or towel on the ground or floor, a treat pouch filled with their meal or high value treats.
Step One – Eliminate Distractions for Your Dog
Set up your environment for success. Start in a room with the door closed, free of toys or distracting items, with curtains or blinds closed. Turn on a white noise machine, or white noise online app, if your dog is still aware of outside noises.
Place the towel or dog bed or mat on the floor.
Step Two – Wait Patiently for Your Dog to Settle Naturally
Sit and wait calmly, ignoring your dog if they try to get your attention or climb onto your lap. Put your dog back on the floor and wait until it offers a “settle” behaviour, such as a “down”, or laying on their side or tummy with chin on the ground.
Do not reward lying on the back with paws in the air being silly! Wait for the settling behaviour, then reward by placing the food—quietly and calmly—between your dog’s two front paws so there is no need for your dog to leave the settled behaviour to eat.
Tip: Always use a soft treat pouch and avoid opening a noisy plastic bag that will excite the dog and break its settle.
Step Three – Train Your Dog to Settle with Patient Repetition
Repetition is always required to ensure “settle” is learned. When you start to leave the room, and your dog breaks “settle”, sit back down and wait until they offer to settle again and become calm. This will teach your dog how to earn attention and reward for settling behaviour.
Repeat this step in all rooms of the house. Remember to always place the food down calmly and quietly, and within easy reach of your dog.
Step Four – Add Common Distractions
Now, train your dog to settle in trickier situations by repeating steps two and three with added distractions. Scatter toys on the floor, have people come and go in and out of the room. Generously reward calmness in spite of all these incentives for your dog to break the settle—and repeat, repeat, repeat until your dog is no longer reacting to any distractions.
Tip: Be sure to capture and reward your dog’s calmness wherever it happens, even if you are not specifically training. For example, you’re at a pet store and your dog settles while you’re paying for your items – reward multiple times if they settle!