Your dog may used to relaxing while you are out in the daytime, but your dog learning to relax while you are at home, doing housework, relaxing in front of the TV and just generally mooching around at home is a very different thing.
Settle training is a great exercise to teach on a mat, on their bed or a comfy place for your dog. Giving them a long lasting chew or a stuffed kong or a licki mat on their settle area is a great and easy way to start. Chewing and licking are both very calming things for a dog to do which will in turn help them be calmer and settle too.
If your dog chooses to go and relax there of their own accord then approach them slowly and calmly saying ‘settle’ in a soothing tone and either give them a low value treat on their bed (so they lower their head further to get it) or give them a gentle slow stroke or tickle their chest. By doing this we are introducing the word to the action. Settle should not be similar to a formal ‘stay’. Look for signs of your dog relaxing, this may be tucking their paw underneath them, their hips tilted over so their back end is on its side or this could be your dog totally upside down. Think about how your dog normally chooses to relax and sleep. What position is this? It could be curled up in a ball. Every step your dog takes toward being in its most relaxed position while you are training the settle should be rewarded calmly and with a soothing voice.
Again, try not to reward the dog for looking at you for this exercise. This may feel wrong, but your dog will not be totally relaxed if it is always looking for where you are or if there may be a treat on offer. With enough practice you can even start training this in different environments too, maybe at the pub or a dog friendly café or at friends and family’s houses.
Always try to place a treat (ideally low value, some raw carrot, maybe a dry biscuit or some of its kibble if you feed your dog dry food) between the dogs paws and on its bed. This stops them trying to leap up to meet the treat half way straight from your hand.
Consider the value of the treats you are using.For exercises such as Settle Training where we want the dog to relax, low value treats are needed. Too high value, or too exciting means your dog will be anticipating the next treat too much and not relax. All dogs will value different treats differently. Just like I prefer cake over chocolate, I also like oaty biscuits but I would rather have cake above all. If I were to put myself in the dogs position here biscuits would be the best thing to train with…If one landed in front of me I would be ‘oh thanks, nom’ Chocolate ‘ooh THANKS!’ Cake ‘OMG best day ever, CAKE! Amazing thank you!!! NOM! Any more??’ For some dogs a low value treat maybe some of their normal kibble if they are fed on dry food, or a raw piece of carrot. Feed often for the dog choosing to get comfy, stay comfy and then get comfier.
Do not use your dog’s name when training the settle or they will think you are calling them to you. When returning to your dog don’t make too much of a fuss or they will break the position they are in. A simple low key good is all that is required.