Raising a Puppy

How to Teach Your Puppy to Settle

August 4, 2022

Doing nothing IS a behaviour. Let’s teach your puppy to settle!

How to teach your puppy to settle

There are many words to describe puppies:

Cute. Tiring. Life-changing. BUSY.

If they’re not asleep, they’re usually moving & squirming!

New puppy parents are also often sleep deprived due to crate training and house training. It makes sense then that our natural instinct is to tiptoe around and not disturb our dog when they finally settle and lie down!

What’s wrong with that?

Dogs do what WORKS for them.

If lying down quietly, voluntarily going to their crate, or playing independently with toys doesn’t get them anything good they won’t be encouraged to do that behaviours again!

How to teach your puppy to settle

A statement you’ll commonly hear in force free dog training is “What gets reinforced [rewarded] gets repeated”.

When clients mention to me that their puppy is SO busy, I’ll ask if they’ve been teaching their puppy to settle. This usually gets me blank stares. How do you teach your puppy to settle??

Dogs and puppies repeat things that have good results for them. If a behaviour results in something rewarding, they’ll often try it again. If that has a positive result many times, it often becomes their default behaviour. Do what works, right!

There are many things your puppy finds naturally rewarding: Affection, praise, play, sniffs, and treats.

Therefore, if a behaviour frequently results in these things, your dog will repeat it!

We can use this to teach calm, settled behaviour to become our dogs default at home.

The best part?

Teaching your puppy to settle is very easy!

How to teach your puppy to settle

Here’s how:

Step 1: Teach your puppy a marker word

A marker word marks the exact moment in time your dog does a cue correctly, or is doing something you want repeated (such as laying down relaxing!). Marker words can dramatically speed up the training process since your dog will understand specifically what got them the reward. To learn how to load a marker word, read this.

Step 2: Have treat stations set up around your house

I recommend having at least 3 treats stations set up throughout your home. A treat station is simply a jar, Tupperware, or bag with small, high value treats in it. If we make it easy to reward your dog throughout the day you’re more likely to do it!

Step 3: Notice, mark, and reward anytime your dog settles!

Now it’s time to teach your dog to settle.

Anytime you notice your puppy relax, make sure you mark & reward it!

Examples include:

  • They voluntarily go to their crate
  • They lie down while you watch tv
  • They relax while you’re in the kitchen
  • They play solo with a toy while you have a guest over

Try to make a point to mark & reward at least 25 moments daily.

Basically, anytime your puppy is doing something you like & want them to repeat, reward it! Over time this will help solidify those calm behaviours as their default choice.

Remember- doing nothing IS a behaviour. Encourage your dog to make that choice!

Happy training 🙂

Disclosure: Happy Hounds uses affiliate links. Purchasing with these links will not cost you any extra, but I get commissions for purchases made through these links. Affiliate links help me to continue to offer free resources & blog posts. I would love if you used them!

How to Teach Your Puppy to Settle

About the author:

Stephanie Rombough, DBTMc, is a force-free dog trainer in Edmonton, Alberta. She owns Happy Hounds Dog Training, offering private in-person or virtual dog training services. 

Whether your dog is brand new to leash training OR they have a long history of pulling on leash, this program will teach you what you need to know!

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My mission at Happy Hounds is to help owners train their dogs using positive, force-free methods. A trained dog is less likely to end up in a shelter, and a dog trained with positive methods is more likely to be confident & happy. Everyone wins!

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