The doorbell rings, and chaos reigns.
The dog is barking at the door, you’re trying to pull him back so he doesn’t run out when the door opens — all the while your guests are waiting on the other side of the door, out in the cold. And once the guests are inside, now the dog is jumping on them!
There’s an easy solution: teach your dog to settle.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your dog could run to his bed, lay quietly and wait until your guests come in the door? Settle is the answer you’ve been looking for.
To teach this, start with some really good treats in a bowl, your clicker, and an appropriately sized mat. (A bath mat from your local big box store works perfectly for teaching this. Inexpensive, portable, and won’t slide around.)
Step 1: Drop the mat down in front of you and be ready to click the instant the dog steps a paw on the mat.
Step 2: When you click, deliver a treat off the mat. We need the dog to hop off the mat, so he can earn another click and treat when he wanders back on.
Step 3: Stay quiet (and patient) as your dog figures out that his foot on the mat earns him a click. Resist the urge to point to, pull your dog over to, or otherwise “help” your dog get to the mat. Let your clicker do all the talking.
Step 4: As your dog catches on, you’ll notice that he’s almost always getting at least one paw on the mat. Great! Now you’re ready to “raise the bar,” and reward only when there are two paws on the mat.
Step 5: Continue to click and treat every time your dog has two pas on the mat until he’s almost always getting at least two paws on the mat. Then raise the bar and click only when there are three paws on the mat. Then only when he has all four paws on the mat.
Step 6: When you’re willing to bet me $100 that your dog will come to the mat and put all four feet on the mat, you’re ready to wait for your dog to sit. The “wait” part is very important — resist the urge to ask your dog to sit. Remain silent. Let the clicker do all the communication. Click only when your dog volunteers a sit (on the mat). I promise you, the sit will happen if you’re patient.
Step 7: After the dog is reliably coming to the mat and sitting automatically, you’re going to wait for him to lie down. Again, no talking, just wait and then click and treat when it happens.
It’s that easy to teach your dog to go settle on a mat.
Things we need to add to make this useful in real life: a name (settle), distractions (doorbell ringing, for instance), distance (so you don’t have to go to the mat with the dog), duration (how long can he stay there?), and direction (so you don’t have to always face the mat in order for this to work).