What is a 'settle' - the cue, settle mats and when to not use it

Updated: Mar 24

Close your eyes, relax your muscles and take a deep breath.

For the majority of us, if we take a moment to relax our bodies our mind will relax too.

I talk a lot about making sure you are rewarding calm behaviour. A settle cue is a shaped behaviour that imitates a dogs relaxed body language.

Sometimes waiting for your dog to be relaxed is not an option. Their stress levels may be too high and taking no action leads them to become more distressed or stimulated. They may also be young and struggling to manage their arousal levels.

If we can shape this body language we can shape a ‘mindset’ to the cue. This body language may be a 'lie down' and then a 'head down' or even 'roll onto your side'. Your dogs heart rate will slow, their eyes may relax after a few minutes and you get a great window to reward this mindset.

You can manage how your dog approaches situations e.g. if I was about to work on dog excitement with Summer and we were about to meet up with another dog. Id be sitting for a few minutes and practicing settle to make sure she has the best experience greeting dogs as possible.

Settle mat's are tools that are often used to associate with relaxation if you practice this training specifically on the mat each time. This is an extremely useful tool if you dog is struggling with this concept but I would also be aware of the dependancy on the mat to settle down. Id recommend practicing with a mat and without.

Settle cues are fantastic but dogs tend to treat a settle as a stay cue - it becomes a head space of anticipation for the next reward. So when your dog is used to being asked to settle see if you can begin to mark and capture the relaxation behaviour without a cue.

Have a read of the blog post ‘how to train your dog to be calm around rewards’ to follow on from this.

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