Teaching your pit bull to lay somewhere and settle can mean the difference between a dog who can go anywhere with you, and a dog who is stuck in his crate all the time. *Be fair. Don’t expect your pit bull to be able to settle if they haven’t had adequate exercise!*
The first step is teaching them to lay down when you ask:
- Ask your dog to sit, and reward him for sitting. Put a treat right in front of his nose, and slowly bring the treat down right between his front feet. He will either stand up, or lie down. If he stands up, try moving the treat slower so he can lick it on the way down, and make sure you are going right between his front paws. If you are still having trouble, reward him for bending his elbows a few times, then try again.
- After you have successfully gotten her to lay down using the treat, go through the same motion without a treat in your hand, and mark and reward when she lies down.
- Start saying “down” before doing the hand motion to teach him the word.
Now, teach them to stay laying down. *Deliver the reward between the dog’s paws to keep him in a down, but if he gets up that’s ok – just ask him to lay down again. He doesn’t get treats for standing up!*:
- Ask him to lay down, count to 1, and reward.
- Count to 3, and reward.
- Take a step back, and reward. *If this is difficult for her, start by just moving your foot a little.*
- Take a step sideways, and reward.
- Count to 5, and reward.
- Count to 1, and reward.
- Take two steps back, and reward.
Continue this sequence and slowly make it more difficult. Add in a hop, a spin, take more steps, walk around, etc. If at any time you dog is unable to stay down, make it easier on her for 5+ times before attempting what she made the mistake on.
Lastly, teach them to lay down and relax while you are sitting doing something else (reading a book, eating dinner, etc.). It’s a good idea to use a mat or a dog bed for this:
- Ask him to lay down, and give them something to chew on (it’s no fun laying doing nothing!). Sit down in a chair nearby.
- Every few seconds, toss a treat to her to encourage her to stay in place. If the treats are too distracting and she’s having fun chewing her toy, just softly praise her.
- Increase the amount of time between treats and praise.
- Slowly increase the difficulty by adding other people to the room, having people walk through the room, and having people sit down, get up, and talk. If your dog gets up, just encourage her back to her spot and make the room calmer. Only practice this for a few minutes at a time to start out, then say “OK!” and let her get up (if she wants to).
- Take it on the road! Go to a quiet outdoor area – your yard, a park, somewhere with not too many distractions. Bring a folding chair, a chew toy, your dog’s mat, and a book or a magazine. Put the mat down, and the chew toy, and sit and read your book. If your dog has trouble settling, just wait and read. Eventually, the only thing for him to do will be to chew his toy. Praise and give extra treats when he finally settles.
- Go to more and more exciting places and repeat. Soon your dog will be able to settle no matter where you are! *Again, make sure you dog has had enough exercise before asking her to settle!*
You can also teach your dog to switch from excited to calm by practicing “jazz up & settle down”. Think of it like the Red Light/Green Light game kids play. Do something that excites your dog – talk in a squeaky voice, play tug, jump up and down, bounce around – for just two seconds. Then, ask your dog to lay down. If he can’t, just stand very still and be very boring until he can. Once he’s down, wait til he takes a couple breaths, then start playing for two more seconds. Continue practicing by playing for longer before asking for a down, and waiting longer before releasing him from the down.
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