This exercise is included in the Daybreak puppy course syllabus as I strongly believe it's something dogs should be taught from day one.
The Settle is the 'do nothing' or 'chill out' exercise - something that some dogs find incredibly hard to do.
You'll need to start somewhere quiet and peaceful - somewhere that you do is likely to feel like relaxing and settling down. Choose your time too - perhaps after you've come home from a good walk and your dog is feeling a bit tired too.
- Get comfy sat next to your dog on the floor - put something good on the TV or reach for a good book
- With your dog on the lead, ask them to lie down and carefully drop a treat between their front legs
- If your dog is inclined to get straight back up after lying down, then immediately follow that one with another, and then another until they remain in the down
- Whilst you're watching the TV/ reading your book, occasionally drop a treat between their front legs
- You're aiming to reward them when they're settled and not anticipating another treat - or demanding their next one ;)
That first stage doesn't usually take long and even if you need to move up onto the sofa, you'll probably find they remain quite relaxed and stay where they are when you move. As you go through this training you gradually want to be stood up as opposed to always on the floor with them.
Then find somewhere a little bit more interesting, perhaps your back garden or somewhere similar. Repeat the steps above until your dog is settled in a down next to you. Around this stage you can probably start using the cue 'Settle' or something similar that you'll remember.
Keep an eye out at home for when your dog is naturally settled and make sure to reward them quietly.
See if you can enlist a friend or family member to act as a distraction for your settle. Pretend you've met them whilst out walking and ask your dog to Settle next to you whilst you have a conversation. Reward your dog quietly for remaining calm and settled.
Then the hard part - taking it somewhere more exciting, perhaps doing it out on a walk or at an agility class!
Up your rate of reinforcement accordingly - it might well need to be significantly higher than when you're somewhere quiet. If your dog has a bed or soft crate you can take to an agility class then you could us that as a focal point for the calm and settled behaviour.
Think about proximity to the distraction you're presenting your dog with and the duration you expect them to manage. In a high excitement area you might well only get 5 minutes, but that's a good start. End the session BEFORE your dog starts to tell you they can't do it anymore. Much better to end a session on a successful note - that way you're more likely to do it again in the future :)
Today I'm grateful that my dogs understand how to settle quietly and wait their turn. It makes my job as their handler much more enjoyable as I don't have to get ratty with them for being noisy and annoying!
Want to watch my 'Chill Out' series of step-by-step tutorial videos on how to teach this behaviour?