Is your dog easily distracted? Trainer reveals five things to remember if you want your pup to settle calmly in public

Young woman reading a book while sitting with her dog under a tree
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is your dog easily distracted when you're in public? Do they struggle to settle calmly beside you? If so, you're not alone. Training a dog to settle in public can be challenging, but with a little bit of patience and consistency it's completely doable.

While arming yourself with the longest lasting dog chews can certainly help when it comes to distracting your dog and encouraging them to chill out, expert dog trainer Julianna DeWillems says there are several other things you'll want to consider to help make training this skill a little easier.

"A lot of people wish their dog would settle in public," she explains in a video shared to Instagram, which you can view below. "This typically looks like a dog staying in one spot for an extended amount of time around distractions.

Settling is a challenging behavior that takes a lot of considerations. Asking a dog to stay in one spot for a long time is really hard," she concludes, but it can be done.

DeWillems encourages dog owners to ask themselves the following five questions before trying to teach their dog to settle:

1) Has your dog's needs been met prior to the training session? "We are sure to meet a dog's exercise and sniffing needs first before we work on this behavior. It’s not fair to expect a dog to chill and hang out if they have a bunch of pent up energy."

2) Is your dog comfortable in the environment you're taking them to or are they nervous, stressed or reactive? "We typically would not work on settling in the traditional hang-at-a-patio sense if a dog falls under any of those labels." By this, DeWillems means that those outdoor gatherings we love that can be busy and full of distractions wouldn't be ideal for nervous or reactive dogs.

3) Does your dog have the skills they need? "Has the behavior been worked on extensively at home?"

4) Are you timing things right? "Plan to start small with short trips, always willing to end early if the dog hits their limit earlier than expected."

5) Have you prepared correctly? "Do you have long-lasting chewing or licking items to help the dog stay settled? It's important to build this behavior in small steps using tons of positive reinforcement. We want the dog to feel comfortable engaging in this behavior because it results in a lot of good stuff for them and we've set the environment up to make it pretty easy, not because they're afraid of what might happen if they move."

DeWillems says it's also important to pay close attention to your dog's body language. "If they start getting restless, we're sure to check in about whether they need to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, get water, etc."

As with any new skills, teaching your dog to settle takes a lot of time and practice and we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer if you feel your pup would benefit from some extra support in this area. 

"For some dogs, settling in public can be achieved with lots of training! For others, settling in public might not be in the stars for them due to a number of factors and that’s ok," explains DeWillems.

Check out our guides to how to stop a dog from jumping up and how to crate train a dog for more great training tips.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.