As the leader of your puppy's family unit, or "pack," it is up to you, the owner, to teach him basic obedience, and help him grow into the happy, well-socialized dog he was meant to be. Teaching your puppy to relax, or "settle," is an important part of this process. The "settle" command will come in handy in many situations, including when he is being groomed, visiting the vet, or riding in a car. Although your puppy may seem like an uncontrollable, tiny terror as he zips through the house, he can begin to learn the "settle" command as early as 10 weeks of age if you are patient and consistent. Then you will be able to not only enjoy his energetic antics but also some relaxing quality time.
Hold your puppy on your lap with a finger under his collar so he doesn't jump off, and stroke his head repetitively and rhythmically while speaking to him in a soothing voice.
Massage his chest or the base of his ears if he is squirmy or resistant.
Turn him over on his back for a tummy rub, and rub using a circular motion with the palm of your hand. This not only helps relax your puppy, but lays the groundwork for the "settle" command you will teach him later. If at first your puppy squirms while trying to nip, it doesn't mean he is aggressive or bad, just that he may be a little headstrong, or have dominant tendencies. You will need to be very firm, patient, and--above all--consistent with him.
Restrain the puppy gently by holding the puppy's back against your abdomen--using one hand on his chest and one hand on his collar-- if he struggles, whines, tries to nip or throws a puppy tantrum. Then continue massaging the puppy's ears and chest .
Pick him up and hug him gently when he is relaxed, in order to help him get used to being restrained.
Release him and praise him lavishly. In subsequent sessions you can begin to teach him to calm down with a "settle" command.
Lay him on his back gently until he relaxes, in order to begin teaching the "settle" command. If he tries to squirm, mouth or bite, lay him on his side. This is not the "dominant down" or "alpha roll" that was in favor with some dog trainers years ago, in which you wrestled the dog by main force and shouted at him. This calming exercise mimics the behavior of the mother, who has no qualms about rolling an unruly pup on his back and restraining him with a maternal paw.
Repeat "settle" until you feel some of the tension leave his muscles.You may have to repeat "settle" many times, especially if you have a rambunctious puppy.
Instantly say "good settle" when the puppy relaxes.
Have the puppy stay settled 20 seconds, if possible, and aim for at least five. Say "good settle" and release him, telling him how wonderful he is.
Repeat the "settle" exercise daily, always initiating it when your puppy is already somewhat relaxed. This increases the odds of success, and builds your puppy's confidence. As your puppy grows, begin instituting "settle" when he is excited.
- Give your puppy plenty of exercise. If he is worn out at the end of the day from playing, exploring, obedience training, and cooperative games such as "fetch", he is more likely to relax.
- A well-socialized puppy is a relaxed puppy. Make sure you invite many visitors to your house, including men and children, to meet and interact with him.
- If your puppy entirely resists being gently restrained or hugged, and continues to struggle and nip after many attempts to hold him, consult a dog trainer for professional guidance. A puppy who can not be restrained may turn into a dog with behavioral problems.
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