The goal is for your dog to learn to just lie down quietly whenever you sit in a chair and ignore him.
- First step is to gather everything you need: leash and comfortable collar for your dog (choke chain not needed), about 50 tiny treats (1/2 inch or less) your dog likes, possibly a towel or mat for your dog to lie on, and something for YOU to do - book to read, TV to watch, etc.
- Bring your dog in the house on the leash and collar and go directly to your chair or couch. Sit down with the leash held close or under your foot or even sit on the leash so your dog has just enough room to stand or lie down with little room for exploring. Ignore your dog.
- If your dog barks or whines, pretend you don't hear (or care!). If he nuzzles you, move your hand or arm away. If he jumps on you, lean forward or stand up so he drops off without you having to touch him with your hands, look at him or talk to him. Refuse to acknowledge any attempts to get your attention.
- While pretending not to pay attention, wait for your dog to get bored enough to lie down. When he does, calmly say "Yes" and place a couple of treats between his paws so he eats them from the floor. Sit up and go back to ignoring him. Still laying there? Give a few more Yes/Treats at unpredictable intervals.
- After about 5 minutes, gather your stuff and move yourself and your dog to another place in the same room. Sit down without a word to your dog and wait again for him to settle down in his new place. Reinforce with Yes/Treats when he does. Gradually increase the time between the treats.
- When you are tired of this, tell your dog "All Done" in a matter-of-fact tone of voice and let him go back outside.
What's great about this exercise is that all dogs can do it! It's simply a matter of setting yourself up for success and waiting out your dog. If your dog likes to chew on the leash, try some Bitter Apple spray (or rubbing alcohol or other yucky tasting substance) to soak the leash before you start. Or pick up an extra leash clip and an old choke chain (not needed for training) to make a chain "extension" to your leash. Clip the leash to the chain and use the new clip to hook the chain to the ring on your dog's collar, adding several inches of "unchewable" material to your leash. If you need more help, tie a stuffed Kong or bone to the foot of your chair to keep your dog busy.
Madeline Gabriel, Manager of Behavior and Training, San Diego Humane Society and S.P.C.A