Chillin' Out

What is it? 

Your dog learns to chill out and relax on his mat, bed or blanket.

Why is it an important skill? 

Your dog learns self-control and relaxation. Both of these are important skills in our human society. Dogs learn to be both patient and calm in different locations – at home, in the classroom, at the vet, out and about (e.g. outdoor cafes)

How to teach it?

  1. With clicker and treats ready, make a big show of putting your mat on the floor. Mark (click or say “yes”) for the dog’s first movement or orientation towards the mat. Deliver the treat to the dog on the mat (i.e. drop the treat onto the mat).
  2. Continue to mark any interaction with the mat. Deliver treats on the mat.
  3. Reposition the mat slightly and continue to mark and reward any interaction.
  4. When the dog is reliably standing on the mat with all four feet, begin to shape the dog to lie down: wait for sitting, nose dips, or elbows bending.
  5. Continue to slowly raise criteria until the dog lies down on the mat.
  6. Once the dog lies down fully on the mat without prompting, begin introducing a verbal cue such as “Settle” as the dog is moving towards the mat. Mark and reward all correct responses.
  7. This is only the first step in teaching a ‘Settle” behavior – the Basic Manners class will take this training much further with new locations, duration, distance and distractions.

What is it? 

Your dog learns to lie down with his elbows and rear on the floor.

Why is it an important skill? 

It’s the second stationary cue that you teach your dog (the other one is “Sit”). It is helpful because it allows you to put your dog into a controlled relaxation posture whilst you are busy with something else, or when you are out and about in public. Most dogs have a preference with either the Sit or the Down, and it’s good to be aware of that preference.

How to teach it? 

Easiest is to start with your puppy in a sitting position.

  1. Position your hand with a treat in it, about 1 inch in front of your dog’s nose.
  2. Slowly move the treat hand straight down to the ground (think “Nose to Toes”), and then back towards his elbows. As your dog’s head lowers and his chin tucks in to follow the treat, mark (click or say “Yes”) and give him the treat.
  3. Continue to mark and reward for your dog getting closer and closer to the full down position.
  4. Once he is going into the full down, vary the location of the treat delivery: you can place it on the ground between his feet, you can toss it away from the dog, or you can hand it to him.
  5. After a few repetitions, you should be able to lure the behavior without a treat in your hand, i.e. just pretend to have a treat in your hand. Repeat until your dog is reliably offering the down position when prompted by a treat free hand movement to earn his mark and reward.
  6. Add the cue once the behavior is predictable. Just before your dog lies down, give your verbal cue “down”. This verbal cue should precede any hand movement.

Note: In this class we only teach the basic concept of a “down”. Our Basic Obedience class takes this much further, by teaching the puppy that you standing upright is a part of “down”, and we also introduce the concepts of difficulty, distraction, duration and distance.

The doorbell rings, your dog runs barking excitedly to the door. 


  1. Follow your dog to the door, and insert yourself between your dog and the door, with your back towards your dog. Tell him “I’ve got this”.
  2. Wait for him to calm down a little. Grasp the doorknob, open the door an inch or two. If he starts barking, then shut the door again.
  3. Repeat, until you can open the door all the way with your dog staying quiet. (It’s a good idea to put a note on the outside of your door, explaining that you’re training your dog, and that your visitor should please be patient. Let your visitor know this is about teaching your dog to be calm, and not because you have a dangerous dog).
  4. Let your guest come inside. Have your guest turn away from and ignore the dog. You can gently take hold of the dog’s collar to hold your dog a step away.
  5. Move calmly to your living room or wherever you want to sit. Keep ignoring the dog. Sit down with your guest. Don't fuss, be calm. The dog usually settles down amazingly quickly.

Implement this technique from the very first that you have your puppy. If it’s not working, talk to us after class.

Brendan Edmonds