Training a working dog to settle
The Conventional ‘Training an off-switch method’ is when you teach your dog that when you step on their lead, that a cue that no training is happening and it’s time to settle.
Teaching the off switch is an important life skill for when you are occupied, so the dog can relax and watch the world go (for example the pub!)
Here’s what Laura, Luna the English springer’s Mum, had to say about the value of training this behaviour:
"As high-energy dogs, we wanted to work on having Luna relaxed joining us at the pub and sports events. We worked on settle training with Emma, which I renamed pub training knowing we like a pub stop halfway through. Just nice quiet sit down with some gentle strokes. Luna was happy to lie down after a little walk in a pub or watching sports when she was little. As she has gotten older, we do long walks and always make sure we have a natural chew too. We don’t give much attention at a pub, just so she can’t become overstimulated. It’s nice to know I can go and watch the rugby and not worry or go to pubs knowing we don’t need to rush."
How to train an off-switch:
When you want to practice the ‘off switch’ step on their lead to cue that no training is happening and it’s time to settle.
When teaching this, do not use clickers and treats as these increase arousal, instead, you reward with your attention.
- Step on the lead and throw down a sprinkle of food
- Use ‘relaxed’ body language to cue that training is over
- Looking out of the corner of your eye, mark any signs of settling, e.g. a sit with a ‘gooood’ and stroke
- Resume ‘relaxed’ position
- Progress by waiting for a longer settle, before rewarding with your attention
- Pick up the lead when you’re done to signal the end.
One of the best places to start this training is at home sitting down. Next, you might try the same standing up. The progress would be moving from indoors to outdoors, then mid-exercise such as a park bench. Finally, the most challenging settle would be after something arousing, for example, their turn running an agility course or retrieve.