Does your dog struggle to settle in public places?
Settling in public places!
Byron finds this incredibly difficult to do. I believe it’s because we haven’t had him since he was a puppy (he lived with my mum until he was 3) and so he wasn’t taught how to relax at a young age.
Since we’ve had him permanently though, this is something we’ve really tried to nail. We like to go to the pub and take him places and we don’t want to leave him behind!
He used to REALLY vocalise, whine and paw for attention because he had a strong reinforcement history with these kind of behaviours so this was his go-to when we stopped at a cafe, pub, travelled on a train etc.
We’ve come a long way with Byron but there is still work to do on the settle but ultimately, this will just take time, effort and consistency.
Here is what we did!:
We built up a settle in the home environment on a specific mat that he has learnt to settle on at home where there are no distractions.
We made an effort to visit pubs and cafes (it’s a hard life!) when they were QUIET and we usually opted to sit outside with him if at all possible.
We decided a quiet time was best because part of the process was IGNORING Byron’s vocalisations and pawing, so to lessen the embarrassment factor, this made sense.
We made sure he had a huge walk before-hand so he was at least a little more tired and ready to settle (setting him up for success).
We would sit down and ignore Byron, until he would eventually lie-down. Warning! This takes a lot of will-power and is why opting for quiet pubs and public spaces is ideal so you don’t feel too embarrassed.
As soon as he was down, we would very CAMLY AND SLOWLY put some treats between his paws, This part is key because if we said “GOOD BOY” in a jolly voice and threw down the treats, he would pop up and get all panty again.
I strongly believe the way in which the treats are delivered are key to this!
If he did pop up, we would just repeat the above process.
We then started to reward when he wasn’t looking at us and when his head was naturally resting between his paws
We then left longer and longer between each reward.
We are going to try busier times and places but for now I’m just so proud of how he is doing
One thing to note was the definite extinction burst in his whining and pawing behaviour. (An extinction burst is when the unwanted behaviour gets worse before it gets better during the onset of being ignored. The dog is saying this sentence to himself. "Hey, this always worked before. I must not be shouting and barking loud enough or I must not be jumping high enough or biting hard enough) It absoutely got worse before it got better and he cried louder and pawed harder at us, but because we stayed strong and consistent it is much less prevalent and the lie-down with head-down position is beginning to be his go-to behaviour!
We also tried giving him a long-lasting chew but I found that this acted as a distraction and was just dealing with the symptoms and not addressing the motivation behind it all. Once he was finished he would stand up and vocalise.
I’d also like to add that Byron is VERY WELL habituated to his environment; he can cope with traffic, people, different surfaces etc etc. If I had a dog that couldn’t cope with his environment, I would not employ this technique, instead that would require a different behavioural modification plan.
Does your dog struggle to settle? What techniques have you found useful? I’d love to know!