An important skill for dogs to learn is the ability to settle and remain calm and content when in a separate room away from people in the same house.
This is different to being able to settle when left home alone; some dogs can do one but not the other. When a dog is aware that someone is in the other room they can experience barrier frustration, or ‘FOMO’!
Dogs that are fearful of visitors may prefer to stay away from them. But if they are very attached to their human family they might be conflicted as they also want to be near you. So teaching them to feel safe in a separate place from you will allow them to avoid unfamiliar or scary visitors.
Dogs that like visitors but get over-stimulated by them may behave in an unwanted manner, becoming over-excited by arrivals, greetings and enthusiastic conversations. If dogs are unused to children or there is someone vulnerable visiting or someone who doesn’t like dogs, then its often more convenient and safer to give your dog a safe space well away from everyone to settle.
So teaching a dog to settle in another room is a useful management option to prevent dogs being exposed to people or situations that might cause problematic behaviour.
Its unfair to expect a pet to settle in another room without pre-training. Decide which room you can keep visitors out of that your dog can settle in. Give your dog a comfy bed in this room, preferably one they are already familiar with. Start by remaining in the room with them, give them a tasty treat, preferably something longlasting like a likkimat, food filled Kong or chew in their bed. Sit nearby with a book or busy with another quiet task and ignore your dog. You may need to start with short sessions of a few minutes, but gradually try to extend these so your dog learns to settle calmly in the same room as you.
Once your dog can remain calm with you present, you can start to leave them for short periods, shutting the door behind you, again with a food toy or something to keep them busy. Go back to them before they start to vocalise or get restless, but remain calm and neutral throughout. Don’t do excited greetings when you return but be boring!
If your dog struggles to settle when you leave the room, go back to sitting in the room with them but further away. Every so often when they remain in their bed, go and drop a treat on the bed so they can eat it without getting up, praising gently. Do not reward them for getting up and coming over to you, don’t touch, speak to or look at them, until they are back in their own bed. This might seem tough but dogs must learn not to be too dependent on our physical proximity and be independent enough to be calm when we are not with them.