Settle Down Stan!

For so many dog owners a huge goal is to be able to have their dog join them on walks in the Lake District, or days out with the family. This usually means finding an excellent local pub to eat in, for some this can be a daunting task with a bouncing bubbly dog who’s excitment for life threatens your lovely meal.

Time with your dog out in the real world shouldn’t be a panic or a worry.

Training before the event is important to get a real life calm settle in a busy place. Its not about walking 10 miles, and then hoping they’ll settle in a crazy new place. They’ll be totally over stimulated, over tired and very hungry. Not a good combination when in a pub ordering lunch.

If your dog doesn’t settle while your eating at home or sat down on the sofa, then its isn’t going to settle in a cafe. Teaching your dog to settle next to you in the living room on the lead is the start. A good walk then settling them with a tasty treat such as a filled kong, dried hoof or pizzle stick. Something long lasting, once they’ve finished don’t let them get up and wander off, keep them settled for a bit longer. Do this daily or a couple of times a week and it’ll start to make a difference and condition the behaviour. Build in duration of the settling after the chewy thing is finished to build in a longer settle. You want to get to the point where the dog starts to naturally settle at your feet in the home.

I don’t tend to teach the dog to settle on a mat or blanket when out. As unless you have a really good command and release, its very hard to maintain it. What I do instead is build in a good solid down command under distraction.

Down needs to be built at home, without distractions with you building up the time you expect the dog to lie down for. Then build in distractions of movement, others moving about, people saying hello, and noises. Make sure you don’t just reward them with a big of kibble, give them huge jackpot rewards of a handful of treats that they love every now and then. Make it worth their while to stay down. Don’t force it or just expect it.

Making sure you dog understands that if they pull, lunge, or bite the lead its not getting taken off. They have to learn to cope with the frustration and that being settled is rewarded. If your dig struggles about or isn’t keen, wait it out. As soon as they stop, reward them and release them. Teach them faffing about isn’t going to get them anything, calmness is.

Make sure your dog can actually cope with a busy pub. Have they been socialised in busy places? Are they ok with people coming up to them? Can they cope with people running past them? Have they got manners around food? If they can’t deal with these things, then you need to start here before expecting them to suddenly settle in a pub.

Building up to get a dog to be calm in a busy place takes time. You can build from your home to a bench in a park or on the street. Then to an moor confined space in a cafe or pub.

This is obviously much easier with a puppy than an adult dog. Puppies adapt faster to things, and can be distracted easily. I get mine out from 9 weeks old into busy areas to learn to settle. They learn to settle in cafes in just a few weeks, where as adults cab take a little longer but aren’t impossible.

To get things right pick your location. If you are going to settle in a cafe, then find somewhere that you can tuck yourself away from the main in and out. It might seem easier to sit by the entrance for a quick escape, but your more likely to be in the firing line for people coming over and heavy foot fall. It pays to check out potential locations.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour