Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour

TEACHING YOUR DOG TO SETTLE DOWN, SIT, FIND & DOWN

These come from Katie Patmore, a wonderful dog behaviour expert in Sheffield. You can find her here. She offers classes and problem dog behaviour counselling. She is a very special person, lovely to both humans and dogs.

HOW TO TEACH SETTLE DOWN
This is one of the most useful exercises your dog will ever learn. It will teach your dog to settle down whenever you want him to. It is not a stay exercise. Start at home at a time your dog is likely to settle, ie after a meal or a walk. Make is as easy as you can for yourself and your dog. This may be the first time he has been ignored, so this exercise is not without some stress for some dogs. Usually this will be of short duration

  1. Either put your foot on the lead or tie it to a chair you are sitting on. You are going to stay with your dog at least until he is used to this exercise.
  2. Your dog is to be given NO commands whatsoever. Silence. No responses whatever he is doing. Do not tell him to settle or lie down, or stay. This is because he might then get up and down like a yo-yo just to hear your voice and have you communicate with him.
  3. Most dogs settle quite quickly, but be patient. If your dog wants to stand for the duration of the exercise then that is his problem, not yours. Most, however, settle down fairly quickly. If the dog chews the lead during a settle, spray the lead with bitter apple.
  4. Your dog must not be released until he is settled; but that does not mean he should be released every time he is settled. He should think to himself: I am only released when I am settled but not every time I am settled.
  5. When the time comes to release him (after 20-60 minutes) he must know that he is being released. So don’t just release him, hoping he will stay where he is. He needs to know that the exercise has finished, so that he does not keep trying to see if he can wander around. Give him praise and a release command.
  6. Gradually increase the distractions, so that eventually you can do this exercise with friends around, in the pub, in the vet’s surgery, in fact anywhere where you want him to settle quietly.
  7. Never use this as a punishment. It is a guiding exercise, to guide him into good behaviour.

 

HOW TO TEACH “SIT”

Choose a good food treat. Stand facing your dog and show the treat. Move your hand and the treat over her head towards her tail. Her head will follow the treat and her bottom will hit the ground. At exactly this moment say “Sit” And give the treat and praise lavishly. There is no need to press her bottom down to the floor. If you move the treat correctly, she will do it of her own accord.
Always use the same command word “Sit” on its own with no added words. Make sure all the family stick to the same single word. Do not teach anything else until this is part of her repertoire.
Practice this not just at home but in the park, and elsewhere so that she does it in all circumstances. Once she is really good at it, you don’t have to reward her with food every single time but you must continue to reward her with food every now and again so that she stays motivated to obey.

HOW TO TEACH A DOG TO LIE DOWN

For this bit of behaviour it is best to use the word “Flat” rather than the words “Down”. The word “Down” is often used in other contexts – like telling a dog to “get down” from a chair – and this makes it more confusing to a dog. So use the word “Flat” and make sure all the family know this.

When the dog has begun to learn to sit, show him the treat while he is sitting. Then move your hand to ground level, saying “Flat”. His head and body will start following the treat. Move the treat forwards along the ground so that to get it he has to lie down. As soon as he is in the right position, give the treat and praise lavishly.

Always use the same command word “Flat” on its own without any added words and make sure the family all use the same single word. Do not teach anything else till this is part of his repertoire.

Practice this not just at home but in the park, and elsewhere so that he does it in all circumstances. Once he is really good at it, you don’t have to reward him with food every single time but you must continue to reward him with food every now and again so that he stays motivated to obey.

HOW TO TEACH FIND

Teaching your dog to find, while out walking, is to gives it the chance to express its hunting and foraging instincts. This will make walks more exciting and does not require difficult training. We can’t give them a caribou in the garden, but we can give them a hunting experience.

  1. Hold your dog’s collar and throw a titbit three or four yards ahead on grass.
  2. Let him mark the spot with his eyes.
  3. Let go of his collar with the command “Find” or “Seek”, showing with a sweep of your arm, the direction of the titbit. He will have seen where it went, but you are going to need that arm indication as you make it more challenging for him.
  4. Don’t keep burbling to him. Only give him verbal encouragement if he has lost the plot and forgotten what he is meant to be doing.
  5. Once he has found and eaten the titbit, call him back for a much smaller and less tasty titbit. This is to teach him that once he has found the thrown treat, there is nothing else there for him. He has gone out to do something specific, not to have a general sniff of the area.
  6. Repeat this three, four and five times, perhaps in different places.
  7. Once he has got the hang of it, start to make it more challenging for him, by turning him round after he has marked the spot so that he looses sight of it for a second or two.
  8. Gradually increase the difficulty. Throw it further, or even across a stream, and distract him before he goes in search.

General rules for “Find”

  1. 1. it is best to start on a relatively still day, or make sure the wind is blowing the scent towards you both, so that he is able to pick up the scent easily.
  2. The titbit must be large enough to crunch, so that you will know if he has found it before you call him back.
  3. Weight gain!! Use part of his daily food allowance, or, if on a walk you have done several “Finds”, then cut down the food he has at his next meal.
  4. He must find something – to motivate him. In normal life not every hunt ends in a kill, nor every foraging expedition in a full stomach, but in the wild dogs would get hungrier and try harder. Your domestic dog does not get hungrier each time so needs more motivation.
  5. The idea of making the “Find” harder is to make him have to search really hard. The searching is a major source of pleasure for your dog.

COPYRIGHT.

These notes are my copyright. I am also usually happy to have the exact words reproduced on websites, in return for a link, my name, and if permission is asked beforehand. I like to check the websites where it might be used. Email me via this website for permission which will usually be given. Organisations wishing to use them in print should contact me via this website. Copyright © 2007 Celia Haddon. All Rights Reserved.

Safety notice.

All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.

General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.

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