A few weeks ago I discussed using “wait” to teach your dog impulse control and get her to calm down. But sometimes you might want your dog to actually lie down and relax. This is something that can helped with some training and practice too.
Settle means lie on your side and stay there. In the old days we used to call it “play dead,” but at some point someone decided that wasn’t politically correct. Will practicing this lower your dog’s activity level? Probably not. But you can’t quite ask your dog to calm down and relax if you don’t show her what it means, can you? And while it may not make your dog calm down, it is sometimes possible to get the mind to follow the body.
Settle is also an invaluable behavior to have when you need to check for ticks after a hike, trim your dog’s nails, or even brush her teeth.
First, use a treat right on your dog’s nose and lure him to the ground in a “down” position. (On his belly.) Hopefully, your dog will lie on one hip or the other. Move the treat in the opposite direction so he lies flat. In the video, Buddha favors his right hip. So Dagmar takes the treat and moves it toward his left side so he lies flat.
Say “yes” and let him have the treat. If your dog will not lie on a hip, you can still use the treat to shift his body oe way or the other. Play around a bit and find his “favorite” hip.
When this is working well, start to say “settle” before luring so he can learn the command.
Next, add some duration to the settle by delaying the treat for a few seconds after he lies down. Also add “OK” at the end to introduce the idea of being released from the position. This duration is also where you can hope that the mind will start to calm down, following the body.
When you have some more success. Get rid of the lure and only reward for completing the behavior. From there it’s a matter of standing up (if you aren’t already) and rewarding your dog a random. Note that Caffeine does not get a treat every time! (Also note that she’s a total ham.)
In the interest of time, this video compresses 2 or 3 training sessions into less than a minute and a half.