Canine settling exercise

                                          Canine settling exercise.

The settling exercise is one of the most important life skills that you can train your dog or puppy. When you get your puppy, this training should start early because teaching them how to chill and switch off is so important. I like to use a crate or a puppy pen for training puppies because if used correctly and not abused this can be a beneficial training tool for teaching your puppy how to relax and chill. You can visit my website Liverpool Dog Training VIP to book an appointment with me. 

Many behavioural problems have a component of fear, anxiety, or excessive arousal so, that retraining cannot begin until they are in a calm and relaxed state, so that benefits can be achieved on cue. Training should focus on both the behavioural responses (sit, down and walk stay on your mat) as well as the emotional state (calm and relaxed). In fact, until you can get your dog to focus and relax on cue in the absence of the stimuli that evoke anxiety or arousal, it is not practical to attempt to get your dog to relax in the presence of these stimuli.

Once your dog has learned to settle on cue, it should be possible to begin exposing them gradually to more intense stimuli. The settle command could be used to achieve a focused response when your dog is overly excited or anxious, such as when greeting family members, strangers, or other animals. It can be used when dogs become anxious as their owners prepare to depart, become overly excited when company arrives or when preparing for a walk.

Start the settle exercise indoors in your home environment with no distractions to begin with. I like to use a mat or a towel to train my dogs to settle on. If you have hardwood floors a slip free mat is good, otherwise you are constantly adjusting the mat. A towel is good because you can roll it up and take it to different environments, such as a dog friendly restaurant, or the vets. When the training mat is on the ground your dog knows that they are expected to perform a certain behaviour to chill on it and relax.

Training your dog or puppy to go on the mat or towel.

First, of all we need to train your dog to go on the mat itself. Make sure that you have everything ready to go before you put the mat on the ground. This means treats and a ready clicker in hand (if you are using one).

Starting with your puppy with the settle exercise.

Put the mat on the floor and lure your pup into the mat with a treat, your pup may choose to go onto the mat without a lure and that is fine and even better. Once they have all four paws on the mat, click your clicker and reward them with a treat or you can mark the behaviour with a Yes cue and give a treat. The clicker or marker is used at the exact time that they place all four paws onto the mat or towel. This let us your dog or puppy know that their reward is coming. At this point all that matters is that they have all four paws on the mat, it does not matter if your dog or puppy is standing, sitting or lying down. The behaviour is to go on the mat. As you begin to make them wait for longer and longer periods of time, you will find that your dog chooses to lay down on their own.

The main thing that you want your puppy or dog to learn right now is that placing their paws on the mat equals treats! You will soon find that your dog or puppy will readily hop on the mat all on their own to earn that treat. Make sure at any time your pup or dog goes on the mat without instruction you reinforce their behaviour with a treat. The more that you reward their calm behaviour, your dog soon learns that good things happen when they are calm.

Adding the release cue.

This signals that your puppy or dog is free to leave the mat and it will become useful when you begin to lengthen the time that your dog is required to remain on the mat. To add a release cue, we have to change our procedure a little bit. Now once your dog has all four paws on the mat, mark the behaviour as per usual, but do not give the treat yet. Instead, toss the treat away from the mat so that your dog or puppy must get off the mat to retrieve it. As you toss the treat, give the release word, such as all done or free!

Wait for your dog to return to the mat and then repeat the process. Mark the behaviour once your dog has all four paws on the mat, and then toss the treat a few feet away while using your release word. Tossing the treat also allows you to practice rewarding them for walking back into the mat several times in a row. This will help to train your dog what they are expected to do which is too to their mat.

Incorporate the cue word.

Now it is time to start pairing the cue word with the behaviour of going on the mat. As your dog or puppy walks onto the mat, say settle or place but keep to the same cue word that you choose. Once your dog or puppy is fully on the mat, mark the behaviour and reward your dog or puppy. You are simply trying to get your pup or dog to associate the cue word settle or place with the behaviour of placing themselves on the mat. The settle cue word should come as they are walking onto the mat so that they learn to pair what they are doing with the cue word.

Mat training can prevent undesirable behaviours.

These situations might include.

Your dog jumping up on guests.

Your dog dashes for the door when it opens.

Your dog counter surfing for snacks.

Your dog is begging while you are eating.

Your dog is over excited when the doorbell rings.

For example, if your dog is anxious about strangers entering the home, have them go to the mat every time someone comes to the door. Your dog will be less worried and stressed about the interaction, since the mat gives your dog a predictable coping strategy as well as a safe zone. Your dog stays calm on the mat, earns delicious treats, and once everyone is settled, your dog can have the option to say hello if they want.


Justine Shone

JP Holistic Nutrition


Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.