Pet Behavior Digest - My Newsletter For Pet Owners and Pet Lovers
Getting Your Dog To "Chill"
Having our pets “chill” (or settle on command) is one of the most valuable commands you can teach. Would you enjoy your pet lying down calmly while you eat dinner or visit with holiday guests? When you are taking a walk and encounter other dogs, can your dog sit calmly and just “chill”? Surprisingly, this is not as difficult to teach as you might think.
Begin by reinforcing good behavior. This means giving your pet positive feedback which increases the likelihood that the desired behavior will be repeated. When your dog is very calm or resting, offer words of praise such as “good settle” or “good settle down”. We want to notice the behavior while it is happening, put a name to it, and reward it. A tasty treat following your praise will help motivate your pet and teach it to enjoy the settle command.
We might want our pet to settle near us or on it’s bed at the other end of the room. This is a great way to enjoy a stress-free dinner with our pets. A kong toy stuffed with a treat or your pet’s dinner will make the association with “chill” a positive one. When your pet understands your request and is able to settle for approximately five minutes, the food treat will be eventually replaced by your voice, a toy or a life reward. “Go Play” is a wonderful way to reward your pet for complying with your request. It is very important to learn how to motivate and reward your pets in the most effective ways, so that you get the results you want.
I like owners to practice the settle command while doing everyday type of activities: working on your computer, watching television, or reading the morning paper. If necessary you could have your dog on a short leash tethered to something, or in it’s crate; but I would prefer off leash in a safe environment. Slowly build up the time that they can remain in one spot. We want this exercise to end on a positive note, so that your dog moves when you release it...not just when it feels like it.
It is important to have a word that releases your dog from the command. Good options include: “go on” or “go play”, but not the word “okay”. “Okay” is so commonly used that your dog could be accidentally released from the settle command. Practice the “chill” exercise daily, with patience; and experience more and more enjoyable, calm moments with your pet!