Training should focus on the behavioral response (sit, down, walk, stay on your mat) and the emotional state (calm, relaxed)

Why should I teach my dog to stay in place?

Until you can get your pet to focus stay and relax on cue in the absence of the stimuli that evoke anxiety or arousal, it is not practical to attempt to contact your pet to relax in these stimuli.

Many behavior problems have a component of fear, anxiety, or excessive arousal. So retraining cannot start until calm is achieve on cue.

“A good place to start is with a new set of cues that help both the pet and you to understand what behavior is desired.”

Once the dog has learned to settle on cues, it should be possible to begin exposure to gradually more intense stimuli (see Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning).

The settle command could use to achieve a focused response when the dog is overly excited or anxious such as when greeting family members, strangers, or other animals.

we can also use it when dogs become anxious as the owners prepare to depart or become overly excited when company arrives or when preparing for a walk.

How does settle training work?

Training your dog to respond to a verbal cue or command or when it sees a visual line might be describe as cue-response-reward or command-response-reward training.

Generally, the sequence is: to find a means of ensuring that the pet will immediately and consistently exhibit the desired behavior; reinforce the behavior, and then add a cue before the behavior.

Some behaviors that can be useful to place on command, especially for pets with behavior problems, are sitting, down, heel, and going to your mat.

An excellent place to start is with a new set of cues that help both the pet and you to understand what behavior is desired.

“Follow” or “heel” should we use for a calm, loose leash walk, and “go to your mat” should mean go settle down in your bed.

How do I start?

There are a variety of different methods by which the initial response can achieve. In most cases, food, a toy, or a visual target can use to lure the pet into the desired response.

Alternately, a physical device such as a leash and head halter can use to physically prompt the dog to display the target behavior. Along with immediate relaxation of tension as soon as the desired response is exhibited.

Which is the other option?

Another option is to reinforce the desired behavior when it is displayed spontaneously and add a cue word just before the response.
These rewards should withheld except for training.

Over time, the behavior can gradually shape for greater relaxation or a longer duration.

How do I achieve a relaxed state?


Once the desired response is achieve, settle and relax training aims to shape more settled and relaxed responses gradually.

This can accomplishe by saving favored rewards exclusively for training and immediately reinforcing the pet for the desired response.

You will need to focus on your dog’s facial expressions, body postures, and breathing. This is to determine the pet’s level of peace.

Clicker training can be efficient for marking and reinforcing gradually more desirable increments of behavior.

To achieve and maintain a calm response, the person doing the training must remain calm, relaxed, and soft-spoken. And the environment must be free of distractions.

Remember, while you might be teaching the pet to sit/stay or down/wait, you want to emphasize a relaxed emotional state.

How do I teach my dog “look,” “watch me,” or “focus”?

  • Show your dog a favored toy or treat and then hide it behind your back. Have your back against the wall or be in a corner so the dog can’t get behind you. An alternative method is to hide the treat in your closed hand in front of your chest in a line between your dog’s eyes and your eyes. On the first attempt, it would be acceptable to show the puppy the toy or treat.
  • Say “look” or “focus,” and as soon as your dog stops its attempt to get the treat and makes eye contact, use your reward or clicker and give the pleasure. Repeat to improve consistency and immediacy. It may be necessary to guide the dog by using your hand and bringing it up to your eyes. As the dog follows your hand, give the keyword and reward eye contact.
  • For some owners, it might be more practical and desirable to reward the behavior only when the dog is in the sitting position.
  • Gradually increase the time you require eye contact to last. Then start adding distractions in the background, like people playing, a fridge door opening, etc. Once the dog consistently responds correctly, even when there are distractions. You should go to other places (outside) and add mild distractions, such as another dog nearby or children playing. After each successful session, gradually increase the distractions and work in busier environments.
  • The goal is for your dog to maintain eye contact on cue with the key phrase for several minutes. Regardless of the amount of distraction and background activity.
  • Progress gradually to a longer duration increasing relaxation, before we give rewards.

How do I teach my dog to “settle” in a down position?

  • Another exercise would be to train the dog to lie down in a relaxed position on its belly with both hind legs on the same side. In some cases, it may be helpful to have the pet put its head on the ground.

    This could accomplishe using food lure training.
    Leash and head halter (see Training Products – Head Halter Training), or a physical exercise (see Teaching Calm – SOFT and Handling Exercises).
  • Gradually progress to more extended down stays in various environments, and then gradually increase the background noise and distractions.

    Progress slowly to longer duration and increased relaxation before we give regards.
  • Teaching “settle” in a sit position for training while on walks may also be helpful.
image 36
image 36

“The head halter is an extremely effective tool for quickly and reliably achieving the initial behavior and progressing rapidly.”

  • We can teach the dog to settle indoors.
    We can teach the dog to “go to your mat or bed” or “go to your kennel. Where it learns to stay calmly for favored rewards.
  • Food lure training or target training we can use to achieve the initial response.
  • Progress gradually to a longer duration.
  • At first, you may need to leave a leash attached, so your dog can be physically taken to the bed. Or mat to ensure success and to demonstrate to the pet what behavior will result in a reward. Again, giving tips at other times will delay learning (learn to earn).
  • If we learn the dog to sleep in this area and to keep the in the place.

What other devices or techniques can be used to help me get my dog to relax on cue?

The head halter is an extremely effective tool for quickly and reliably achieving the initial behavior. And for progressing rapidly to responses of longer duration and greater levels of relaxation. A pull on the leash and head halter, with or without the use of a cupped hand underneath the pets chin can pull the dog into a sit with eye contact for release and positive reinforcement. While releasing the head halter, immediately reinforces the behavior. The treatment will follow later and is used for shaping the behavior. With further training, the eye contact can be maintained for progressively longer intervals before reinforcing.

Training Products

Similarly the leash and head halter, we can use to achieve a settled down response. With hind legs over to one side. A settled down of increasingly longer duration and greater relaxation can shape with rewards. With the leash and head halter, the down position can be maintained until the desired outcome. It is achieved either by keeping a foot on the leash or by pulling gently upward as the pet begins to rise. The use of the head halter does not preclude the concurrent. Use of lure reward and clicker training techniques to ensure a desirable outcome. Before using a head halter make sure that you train your dog well to accept and work with it.

(see Training Products – Head Halter Training, Training Products – Head Halter Training – Synopsis, and Behavior Management Products).

Physical exercises:

Techniques that use physical contact can help to increase the enjoyment and decrease any fear associated with handling and restraint. They provide a means for achieving a relaxed state, which might then be used if the dog begins to get excited or aroused. The physical contact and attention may provide sufficient reinforcement for some dogs. Food treats can also be paired with handling to mark and reward the desirable response. TTouch® (see TTouch®) and SOFT exercises (see Teaching Calm – SOFT and Handling Exercises) are two physical/interactive exercises. They are designed to help pets relax. While these are specific techniques, any physical handling that is associated with a positive outcome. And can be a valuable training exercise. In addition, by withholding affection when the pet solicits it, it increases its motivational value and usefulness as a reward. See our individual handouts that detail these exercises.
Physical exercises are intended to be used only with friendly, non-aggressive dogs. If you think your dog might become aggressive, do not begin without first discussing this with your behavior consultant. Your dog can growl or attempts to bite, becomes fearful, or struggles excessively during these exercises. If this happened, immediately discontinue them and seek the advice of a behaviorist or trainer.

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