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Progressing Settle Training

Once you have introduced the association with the settle mat and the placement of treats it is time to refine your criteria of what you choose to reinforce. 

It is a little like a hot – cold game. As if you are saying to your dog, position yourself on the mat and the treats will flow, step off the mat and treats will stop.

  • Which position on the mat can you gain consistently?

You need to go with what your dog is offering you. If your dog initially puts one foot on the mat, reward it! In the early stages standing on the mat or sitting on the mat is absolutely fine. Try not to prompt your dog, look at ‘shaping the behaviour’ and build it up in tiny steps.

  • What position are you aiming for next?

Once you have assessed what your dog is willing to offer and you have rewarded their efforts it is time to tighten up on your training criteria and hold out for a little bit more. If your dog is putting one foot on the mat, hold on to the treats and see if you get any further movement. Be ready to reward the next step which may be 2 feet on the mat then 3 and then 4.

  • Remember your reward placement

You can very subtly influence your dogs’ movements with the placement of your reward.

15 seconds thinking time! Whilst you are progressing your training be prepared to hold out and wait for your dogs move for up to 15 seconds. This gives your dog time to think and process. Be aware of frustration building and the potential issues it can create which we will cover a bit later.

Proofing your dogs’ training

A good way to check to see if your dog understands that they are required to be on the mat the get the reward is to throw a treat away from the mat. Let your dog go get the treat and see if your dog makes the choice to return to the mat. If your dog returns, reward it!

Progressing Settle Training – Treat Delivery

·How often do I treat?

When teaching any new training with your dog it is important that your dog is rewarded on every success. 

Then ask the question,

·Does my dog now fully understand this task?

If the answer is yes then you can move on to intermittent reinforcement. This means that you would not look to reward every success and would reward more intermittently. You may look to reward the stronger or quicker responses and ignore the slower and less committed responses.

This process is rather complex and the effective delivery of it will differ from dog to dog. If executed effectively even though your dog is getting less treats it will increase their motivation and commitment to a task.

·Use a jackpot reward!

Jackpot rewards are a handful of treats for those, ‘Wow you did amazing and I want you to remember this moment’… moments during your training! Great for your dogs’ learning, motivation, self-esteem and memory building through the learning process.

Linking in the down training with your settle training

As you progress through your training and your dog you will be in a position to use the ’15 seconds thinking time’ as you continue shaping. If you are able to hold out with the treat delivery your dog will be processing through their memory slots trying to work out what they need to do in order to gain the treat. With lots of down training and reinforcement work on the side there is a higher probability this position may be offered.

If indeed it is offered, jackpot reward it a few times to encourage it more!

Progressing Settle Training – Duration and Environment

·Developing Duration – Treat delivery

Aim to gradually alter the delivery of the treats by increasing the time lapses between the treats. This will need to be increased in second increments and at a pace where your dog remains settled on the mat. Look to do this soon in your training process if you are able.

·Developing Duration – Session Time

Aim to gradually increase the length of time for each session. Initially train for up to 5 minutes and then see if you can increase the session times by the minute and at a pace that your dog remains settled on the mat.

·Adding new training environments

Look to introduce your training in other distraction free environments within your home before taking the training elsewhere. Try training in the lounge, dining room or out in the garden. 

Keep training real life, so sit back in your chair, have the TV on, read a book or sit with a cup of tea, cover all contexts with your dog so they learn the training applies with all of these little variants!

Be prepared to take a step back and reward more frequently when you change the context in your training should you feel your dogs’ achievement lowers.