Settling in Public



Author: Bella (proHOUND Co-Founder)

 

I’ve had an overwhelming number of requests for a blog of this topic. At the time of writing, the world is slowly returning to normal in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and I guess everyone wants to start frequenting cafes and friend’s houses with their pooch! 

 

 

Ava is able to settle in public (although I must confess I have not asked her to settle in public venues since before the pandemic and, on the rare occasion I go out without a dog to do normal human activities, the last thing I want to do is take a dog with me so it’s unlikely she will frequent many busy pubs or cute cafes in the future. She does settle regularly in other people’s homes or on training fields though) no issue, but I haven’t practised this at all with Nina. This is largely due to 1) the pandemic 2) the fact my van is basically a mobile kennel with air-conditioning and bedding so the dogs often just chill in there and 3) what I just said above in bold. I’m fully aware that by not teaching her to settle in public, I can’t expect her to settle in public. Maybe I should give it a go! I wonder how she’d do. 

 

 

Here’s how I’d start: 

 

  • Consider whether your dog can even settle at home. 
    I don’t teach a Place command/allow dogs to settle at liberty in the house until they are crate trained. Crate training is the foundation of settling to 99% of dogs I deal with, including my own. So if your dog cannot settle (alone) in the house and does not have a good off-switch in the house, I wouldn’t begin teaching him to settle in public. The home is the foundation of all behaviours obviously. You definitely can’t expect your dog to switch off in an environment as busy as a pub if they can’t settle at home.

 

  • Generalise that Place/Settle cue 
    Cueing the settle is basically cueing an off-switch; hugely beneficial if you’re out & about. Don’t go straight from teaching a designated space to switch off at home to expecting your dog to settle in a heaving pub though; I’d practise first of all somewhere more quiet and less interesting where they go regularly. For example, I’d have a go at my parents’ house before I started expecting it in public or next to the van on a bed whilst I’m training a client. 

 

  • Have a go out & about 
    Bring the bed/blanket (a blanket is obviously easier; the benefit of Place/Settle training is that it’s essentially a portable crate!) that you have been using and have a little go somewhere like a quiet park bench. Remember to end on a high - when your dog is relaxed. You can definitely calmly reward your dog for desirable behaviour. Emphasis on “calmly” though; you don’t want to excite him. Just slip him a bit of food and use a continuation marker word if you want. 

 

  • Keep your first ‘difficult’ trip relatively short and end on a high

 

 

General tips:

 

  •  Don’t let people touch or fuss your dog. He will just become excited and that won’t help him succeed
  • Don’t wind him up yourself either!
  • You could bring some kind of chew toy to have whilst you’re chatting with your friends or whatever; I’d avoid bringing a stinky one though!
  • When you’re first doing this, I’d make sure your dog has had something to do beforehand like a walk; something stimulating so he’s more inclined to rest anyway. 
  • Do you need to take him to a pub full of rowdy people for 4 hours? It can definitely be fun taking your dog out & about but we need to consider that sometimes they might just be happier at home. 
  • I would consistently use a bed/blanket for a while to form an association, preferably even the same one. You can stop bringing it when he’s easily settling out and about. 
  • You can tether your dog to stop him wandering off. 
  • I mostly ignore unsettled behaviour cos the dog needs to learn to switch off by himself, but you can (verbally) correct any silliness if you want! Try not to pander to him. 
  • It’s crucial to ensure your dog can settle at home first; I can’t emphasise that enough. You also need to build up to busy venues SLOWLY. 
  • I don’t enforce a down or any position. 
  • You can start to create a ‘sometimes we just sit and watch the world go by’ mindset by randomly stopping to settle on walks, then continuing the walk again. Does that make sense?!

 

Hope you found this blog helpful! Bella x 

 




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