Training Your Dog - DOWN
Having a dog that will lie down quietly is a big help when you want him to stay in the room while not being all over your guests, if you take him to an outdoor café that allows dogs, if you need to groom him, or even for some veterinary procedures.
When training, remember that some bony or short-coated dogs object to lying down on hard or cold surfaces, so you may have better results with them at first if you have them lie on a blanket. The traditional method advocated pushing the dog to the ground, or even pulling him down by his leash, but these methods make the dog resist, and are apt to end up as a battle of wills. It's easier to use a treat to lure your dog to a down position. Here's how:
- Start with your dog while he is sitting. Be warned, though: he may not generalize the behavior to lying down from a standing position.
- Move the treat toward the ground. This often works better if your dog is on a raised surface so you can move the treat below the level of that surface.
- As soon as his elbows touch the ground, praise and reward him. Even if he only goes part way, praise and reward just for lowering a bit. Then repeat, praising and rewarding for going farther and farther down. If he keeps trying to get up, you can place your hands over his shoulders to help guide (not shove!) him downward. He will catch on quickly and you can fade out that hint after only a few trials.
- Next, repeat but without a treat in the hand you have been using to lure him. When he sits, give him a treat from your other hand.
- Gradually abbreviate your hand movements until you are only using a small hand signal.
- Add the verbal cue “Down” right before the hand signal.
- Practice the down-stay just as you did the sit-stay.
Most dogs have to learn the down from a standing position as a separate exercise.
- Start with your dog standing. It will be easier if he's on a slightly raised surface.
- Show him the treat and lower it to the ground. You can use your other hand to gently guide his shoulders and rump downward.
- As soon as his elbows touch the ground, praise and reward him. Even if he only goes part way, praise and reward just for lowering a bit. Then repeat, praising and rewarding for going farther and farther down.
- Continue as you did when teaching him the down from a sit position.
Once your dog has mastered the down from a standing position, you can also teach him to down while walking at heel or while coming to you. To teach the down while walking, start by walking slowly and having him down, then gradually build speed. To teach the down while coming, leave your dog in a stand-stay position and step in front of him and tell him to down. Gradually increase the distance you're away from him when giving the command. Then call him and immediately tell him down. You can help get the idea across if you teach him to down on a towel. Once he is reliably downing on the towel as you call him, reduce the size of the towel until it's washcloth size, then patch size, then gone.