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Discussion Starter #1
Been trying to work to get my 6 month old puppy to learn to settle. Lately, after we come back from walks she will roam the house chewing on chairs until someone sits on her mat with hers and hangs out while she chews on a toy. Trying to stuff the toy in her mouth while she chews a chair doesn't work. We try not to give her attention for chewing on chairs and try to direct her away with "don't touch" or asking for a better behaviour, but I fear she's chewing mostly for the attention because she is bored. She has plenty of awesome things to chew, but unless you sit with her with them (with the exception bully sticks and kongs- which only last so long..), she gets up and chews chairs instead.

We have been working on trying to reward a default settle. She loves her mat and sort of likes her crate and gets random rewards when she is in either places. We tried following kikopup's videos on teaching a default settle, but the problem is if we reward her at a high enough rate to keep her on her mat (and try to decrease that rate, slowly) she just ends up getting too worked up about when the next treat will come. She then just ends up being excited and us rewarding her for being excited on her mat, or she gets up and leaves and goes back to chewing chairs.

Right now, she's on her mat, lying down, but staring anxiously at me and making little squeaks and pre-barks. I would like to reward her for being calm on her mat, but if I reward now, I feel like I'm rewarding being on the mat in a very alert state and/or making noises. If I don't reward, she gets up and leaves. If I try the exercise with a leash attached, she chews the leash (which she normally wouldn't do).

Help please! (it also doesn't help that she's into being a mischevious adolescent dog)
 

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I like Dr. Karen Overall's relaxation protocol (google will help you find it in either text format, or as a series of mp3 files). I use a mat, though the protocol doesn't necessarily require it.
 

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I don't use treats for settling behaviors. I find the same problem that treats = worked up. I will gently praise and calm pets for settling behavior. It has always worked well for me.
 

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I've used treats... Look up biofeedback. Theres a vid on youtube of a little black spaniel. Basically you look for and reward the signs of relaxation. Soft blinky eyes, flipping onto a hip, head down, eyes closed, stillness, sighs, etc. I very calmly deliver treats and do not use a marker word/clicker. Maybe just calm quiet praise. And I also incorpoate massage/touch into settle. Helps create relaxation and serves as a reward as well. :)
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You don't always give them treats or your dog will associate lying on their mat a place where they will receive a treat every time they go there.

Only give them treats when they achieve something new or doing something that they have not achieved before and use the treats to reinforce the correct action they have done.

With your situation and the dog staying on the mat you don't have to just give them a treat, praise them is also another good method for letting you dog know they have done something correctly.

If your dog was refusing to go to the mat before, but is now going there it is good to give a treat to let them know it is the right place to rest, but after a while of going there as his resting point you don't need to give them a treat anymore.

Start focusing on new skills like sit and giving him the treat, he will then have a new goal for gaining a treat. Once he has learned to sit go onto the next skill.

I feel right now you need to start letting your dog know that learning new skills is the best way for him to have a treat.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
At 6 months, we are working on a verbal praise. But my puppy gets quite worked up over touch, so a simple pet for "good job" sometimes does the same thing as treats for good job and works her up
.

Thank you all for the suggestions.

I guess I should add that this is all in the context of her chewing couches/chairs like crazy right now. I'm having a super hard time getting her to settle on her own. We walk, we do training, then I usually give her a filled kong or something nice to chew (frozen carrot) etc to try to settle her down, but the second she is done the food, she is up and chewing couches and wooden chairs. I work from home and find it super tiring to be constantly watching her. We are working on a "don't touch" cue, but it's not solid yet. The only way I can get her to settle when she won't is to hang out with her on her mat with my laptop until she chills out (usually holding a non-food chew toy for her to chew..she's not into toys otherwise) or to put her in her ex-pen on her mat or in her kennel.

I'd love to learn how to get her to relax on her mat on her own and settle and entertain herself. So this learning to settle issue that we are having is in a larger context.

At 6 months old she gets a 30min morning walk, 45-60min at lunch, and then an evening walk with the length depending on her energy level. She is a very high energy dog and doesn't do well with less walks. I try to change up our walking places so she sniffs new things. We do lots of little 5 minute training sessions throughout the day with some tug at the end. She loves playing "find it" with kibble hidden everywhere. She still earns most of her food through training or through puzzle toys. I just don't know how to get her to learn to settle all by herself and entertain herself. Any more suggestions?

Currently:(see attached photo)
 

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Honestly, she sounds fairly typical for a six month old puppy...they just don't "settle" much! You're doing a lot of great things that will help her develop into a sensible adult dog, but might not produce overnight results. Glad to hear you have an x-pen and are using it, as management helps a lot at this stage.

I do what kmes suggested, biofeedback exercises to teach my dog "this is what being relaxed feels like," do Dr. Overall's relaxation protocol, and also capture calmness whenever I have the opportunity. But a lot of it simply depends on your dog growing and maturing, which she will surely do in time. You might also try some chew toys like antlers and cow horns, which are sometimes more appetizing than other toys (and are somewhat similar in texture to wooden chair legs), and then rotate those so that they maintain higher value.
 

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Here's the video I mentioned in case you are interested. Ignore that it says "for fearful and reactive dogs". That is often the audience most interested in relaxation exercises, but honestly all dogs can benefit!;)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the resources and suggestions. It's also nice to hear this is normal 6 month old behaviour as well.

I have a deer antler, but I think I need to add in some other things into the rotation as it stopped being interesting.

Biofeedback, relaxation protocol, and more management, here we come!
 
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