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How to take your dog to the pub


How do I Teach My Dog to Settle in Public?


Do you ever sit in a café and look around to see several dogs lying calmly and quietly next to their owners, looking relaxed and content in the busy environment. Then you think of your own dog at home, or perhaps yours is sat next to you, and wish they were like that. It’s an enviable skill but one which doesn’t come easy to many dogs.


Some dogs are naturally good in these settings, they require no ‘training’ to do it, they may even require very little practice, but they just happily relax in whatever environment they find themselves in.


Admittedly these dogs are like gold-dust, it’s a rare occurrence and one which those lucky owners probably take for granted. While the rest of use face an uphill struggle to achieve our dreams of a dog who lies quietly under the table of a bustling pub.


Before you go any further with this training, there’s a few questions you should ask yourself:


  • Does your dog want to be there?

  • Does your dog need to be there?

  • Would your dog be happier left at home?

  • Would you be happier without your dog there?


Not all dogs will cope with settling in public, in fact for some dogs it’s probably the most stressful, miserable experience they could have, they’d rather be at home even if that means staying on their own.


Just like how not every person enjoys dancing in a loud, crowded nightclub, not every dog will enjoy having to lie quietly in a café or pub. If your dog doesn’t enjoy the environment, then you have to ask yourself whether they really need to come with you.


Accepting your dog may never cope with this situation isn’t always easy, especially if it’s important to you, but ultimately every dog is different and we can’t always teach something which goes against your dogs’ natural abilities.


We don’t generally choose to go to a pub or café for a stressful time out, so if taking your dog means the whole thing is more stressful than relaxing, then perhaps it’s better to accept you’d all have a happier time if your dog stayed at home. There’s no shame in that, we shouldn’t expect our dogs to accompany us everywhere, nor should we feel guilty about enjoying a bit of time out without them!


If you can confidently say your dog wants to be there, needs to be there and everyone is happier to have him there, and you feel confident your dog is capable to learning to settle there, then it’s time to start training!


What to take with you:

  • A mat/blanket to act as a place to settle

  • A short lead

  • A chew

  • Small treats or your dogs daily food

  • Water

Setting up for success


Getting off to the right start is essential to make these environments feel relaxing and enjoyable for your dog. If you continually take your dog for long lunches before they’re ready to settle in the environment they’re more likely to build a negative association with the situation and this can be hard to undo.


It’s essential to keep the experience positive, and unless you already have an expert-settler, this will require a gradual process to build the skill.


  • Plan for short visits and leave before boredom, frustration or stress start

  • If you know your dog can only cope with lying calmly for 5 minutes then start with this and gradually increase the duration

  • Don’t go straight for a pub lunch, start with a quick drink or a takeaway coffee so you can leave easily before your dog struggles

  • Don’t wait for your dog to become restless and stressed, if he’s doing well then aim to leave while he’s still settled

  • Teach the skills away from the situation. Park benches, brief stops on your walks, and in the garden

  • Settling is a skill, but it doesn’t have to be specific to a pub or café so start in places where you can move easily and with fewer distractions

  • Set it up in the same way as you would in a café/pub (see below for ideas!)

  • Practice is key, so if you can’t pop into a café several times a week then make use of benches on walks or sit in the garden

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Know your dogs’ limits


  • If your dog is worried by people or new situations, you may need to work through this before expecting them to cope in a busy pub or café

  • A dog who is already worried or stressed by their surroundings will have a very hard time settling, especially if they feel restricted or trapped at the table

  • These dogs will benefit from more open areas or quieter places. Some may never be happy with settling in public places so don’t force it if it’s too stressful for them

  • For dogs who find it all very exciting, keep the trips very short and also work on their impulse control in all situations

  • A dog who struggles to settle isn’t just trying to be annoying, they’re showing that they’re struggling to cope, so it’s important to understand why … are they anxious, excited, frustrated?

Choose your location carefully


  • Start with somewhere open, quieter to begin with

  • Some dogs will find being outside easier while others will be more settled inside. Understand what your dog finds distracting or stressful and aim for the easier option until they’re ready to move to other places


How to manage the trip


  • Calmness on entry - start as you mean to go on

  • If your dog enters by frantically pulling or lunging at everyone, they’ll be in a more stressed state and it will make it harder for them to settle

  • Aim for a controlled walk into the café or pub, lots of rewarding for calm, focused behaviours

  • Avoid letting your dog greet everyone and stop them diving under tables to sniff for food

  • Allow your dog to sniff a little, in a calm controlled manner, to observe their surroundings

  • Entering a new place and instantly being told to lie down isn’t easy for a dog, they need a moment to assess where they are and get a feel for their surroundings

  • This doesn’t mean you walk your dog around and let him greet everyone or jump all over the place, but let him sniff the area you’ve chosen and reward calmly for him looking around

  • Sometimes a minute or two of calmly observing will enable a dog to then settle themselves down

  • Keep the lead short, limit their options and keep them out of trouble

  • After a little observation time, keep the lead short because a longer lead only serves to create more distractions for your dog and sets them up to make mistakes

  • Don’t let them wander around on the lead or get wrapped around table legs, keep it short so they can comfortable lie down but not get tangled or reach other tables

Reward randomly


  • Ideally aim to start with settling in a ‘down’

  • Randomly reward for settled behaviours, aiming for when your dog offers calmer, relaxed behaviours

  • Avoid rewarding when they’re staring at you because this could lead to more attention seeking

  • If your dog struggles with other people or dogs around, you may need to reward more often when people/dogs come near the table or enter the room

Make use of verbal praise


  • Treats can create more excitement or frustration in some dogs so use more verbal praise and keep the rewards very random

  • Take a long lasting chew for back-up but ideally keep this for when needed rather than starting your visit with it

  • If you give a chew too early, it limits your opportunities for working through settled behaviours

  • Once the chew is gone, a lot of dogs will struggle to relax so don’t use it as your first option

  • A chew can be a good if your trip is longer than planned and your dog begins to get restless

Trouble-Shooting


  • Be prepared to leave if your dog struggles. Don’t start with a long lunch or dinner, start with a 10 minute drink and stay longer if your dog is doing well. Make sure you’re able to leave, being stuck because you can’t get away mid-dinner will only set your dog up to fail

  • Work on the foundations away from the situation, if your dog struggles to settle at home then don’t expect a pub to be different

  • Set them up at home or in the garden in the same way as pub, for example, tethered to the table, random rewards and verbal praise for settling

  • If your dog is very excited or nervous of people/dogs who will be in a public place, be prepared to work through this first before expecting them to cope in a pub or café scenario

Teaching your dog to settle in public places requires an element of compromise, the acceptance of knowing if it’s simply not a realistic goal for your dog, or the acceptance that it’s going to take a long time to achieve.

If you put your dog into situations before they’re ready, you risk poisoning the experience and creating negative associations for the future, both for your dog and yourself. Take small steps and always keep within your dogs coping level so they’re able to find it enjoyable and positive.


Each positive experience will gradually build up towards the end goal of your dog settling

for long durations in public places, but remember to focus on each step and don’t rush it before your dog is ready.


Written by Naomi White


FREE VIDEO TUTORIALS


You can now access step by step video tutorials for free for 14 days! Simply join the Online Academy and sign up for the free trial. You can take part in the Calm Canine Challenge which offers tutorials for building settling skills in the home as well as out in public. Helping you to tackle stealing, counter surfing, jumping up, training around cats, training around visitors, barking, desensitising to the doorbell, distraction proofing, real-world pub training and more!






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