The Settle Exercise will teach your dog to accept you and your family as leaders. Each dog in your “pack” must understand that being handled for grooming, vet exams and in general is not optional. The dog/s must accept and tolerate handling without biting, struggling or otherwise trying to take control.

It is important to follow the instructions given to you by your instructor. Here are some reminders:

  • The dog must lie with his feet facing away from you, and flat on his side.
  • If the dog struggles, whines or otherwise complains, ignore it.
  • Do not stroke and pet the dog during the exercise.
  • Praise quietly for obvious relaxation and silence, especially after a struggle.
  • Do not attempt the exercise if you do not have at least 10 minutes.
  • Do not attempt the exercise if you do not feel you have the patience at that time.
  • Children under 12, unless otherwise instructed, must not attempt the exercise.
  • Children over 12 may settle the dog, ONLY when supervised by an adult at all times.
  • Do not feed treats before, during or immediately following the exercise.
  • If the dog hides or pouts or ignores you afterward, do not follow the dog around apologizing.
  • Ignore the dog till he comes to you.
  • A release command other than “good dog” is required. Most people use “all done”.

Remember that the settle is required only once a day and usually 7-10 days is sufficient. A multiple-dog household will benefit greatly if each dog is allowed to observe (but not interact) with the dog being settled.

Once the dog accepts the settle willingly, you may use it as a command to the dog if he is exhibiting out of control behaviors such as lunging, barking, struggling during grooming or vet exams, etc. Always command “settle” first, and if the dog does not comply by calming down, take the scruff firmly and repeat the command. If the behavior continues, utilize the full settle position until the dog is calm.

Other handling exercises: (puppies and small dogs)

Sit with the dog in front of you on the floor. The dog is also in a sit position and is facing you. Place one hand on each side of the dog’s neck at the collar and insert one or two fingers firmly under the collar. Using the rest of the fingers and the thumbs, gently massage the muzzle, ears and top of the dog’s head. If the dog tries to bite, growls or struggles, immediately freeze your hands firmly at the sides of the head and say, “stop”. Do not yell or tell the dog he is bad. Simply freeze. As soon as the dog stops the behavior, smile and continue your massage.

Do this daily for a few minutes at a time. Your dog should soon accept your massage quietly and without struggle. This, in conjunction with the Settle exercise, will increase your dog’s tolerance of examinations and grooming. It will also teach a command to “stop” that will be used for future infractions such as nipping or out of control behavior.

Invert and handle: (puppies and small dogs)

This exercise also helps the young dog to understand leadership and your role as the leader.

Sit with your dog on the floor between your stretched out legs. Carefully turn the dog over on his back so his feet are in the air and firmly hold him with his head on your lap. Use your legs to firmly hold the dog in an inverted position. If the dog struggles, increase pressure with your legs and hands and give your “stop” command. Speak softly but firmly. When the dog is still, praise lightly and then begin to briefly handle the feet, or the head area. Hold the dog until he is relaxed and quiet, then give your release command such and let the dog up. Do this exercise once or twice a day for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Increase the handling of the dog’s feet as he becomes more compliant.

Submitted by:Barb McNinch

Note: Barb is experienced in training and behavior. Her Rottweiler, Shirwin’s cody in Command has earned an AKC CDX title as well as a Dog World Award. Barb is a member of the American Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Her book, “Training Your Rottweiler” and was published by Barron’s in 1999.