HOW TO TEACH A DOG TO LIE DOWN

The “down” is considered a yardstick to judge your dog’s inborn personality, as well as how he’s feeling at the time that you ask for the “down.” When a dog goes down he is showing submissiveness, which some dogs are reluctant to do.

THE DOG DOESN’T HAVE TO SIT FIRST

People mistakenly think you have to ask the dog to “sit” before you teach him “down,” but the two behaviors really don’t have to be linked. If the dog resists lying down, it can sometimes help to get him to sit first. A dog can learn both “sit” and “down” with or without food.

A NOTE ABOUT USING A DOG LEASH TO TEACH “DOWN”

As with all training in the early stages, it’s helpful for your dog to drag his leash so you have something to grab other than his collar. This is especially true of teaching “down,” because if you need an additional tool for a dog who is less than cooperative, you can hold the leash right down on the ground in front of him—with mild tension on it—so that when he submits and begins to lie down, that pressure is automatically relieved.

METHOD #1: HOW TO TEACH A DOG “DOWN” USING FOOD

This is the most effective of the three best-known ways to teach a dog to lie down. It requires stillness and patience from you.

  1. Hold a delicious dog treat in your closed fist, with the back of your hand facing up.

  2. When you say the word “down,” use a deep, slow voice and try to make the word sound sort of like what you want—with a drawn out “owww” as the middle sound. Do not use a quick, high-pitched tone of voice. And don’t say it in a staccato voice that sounds like a reprimand. Avoid the common mistake of putting a question mark, or up-inflection, after the word “down,” which sounds as though you doubt what you’re asking.

  3. Bring your fist slowly down onto the ground in front of the dog. Don’t move your hand, and don’t open your fist and show its contents. Don’t distract the dog by moving around, saying anything, or taunting him with the fist holding the treat.

  4. WAIT HIM OUT. Your instinct will be to wave your fist or to repeat “Doowwn.” Doing nothing is often the hardest assignment of all.

  5. As long as the dog’s attention remains on your hand or your face, give him time to work it out. He’s thinking about it. If his mind is elsewhere, then you have to get his attention back on you and start over.

  6. As soon as the dog begins to slide down, praise him verbally and withdraw your fist slightly, holding it close to the ground. As soon as he’s down on the ground, give him the treat.

METHOD #2: HOW TO TEACH A DOG “DOWN” UNDER YOUR KNEES

This is a simple technique and involves no manipulation or force on your part. Sit on the floor with your knees drawn up and your feet on the ground, making a “teepee” shape with your legs. Your goal is to entice your dog to lie down by luring him to go under your leg teepee from the side.

Sit your dog on one side of you, more or less looking at the side of your legs, so that if he crouched down he could look right through the teepee beneath your knees. Take a treat in your hand opposite the dog and drag it very slowly on the floor through the teepee to the side of your knees. Your dog will have to drop down on his belly to go after it. The moment that the dog’s stomach touches the ground, reinforce the action immediately with your voice saying, “Dowwwn. Good Murphy!” And then give him some more treats.

Get him back in a sitting position and try it again. Say the word “Dowwwn” and slide another treat through your leg teepee from the far side, teasing the dog to go down on his stomach to get the treat.

  • TEACHING “DOWN” TO VERY SMALL DOGS
    If you have a small dog, raise your knees only a little way off the floor, just high enough to allow the dog to get underneath if she is down on her stomach.

  • TEACHING “DOWN” TO VERY LARGE DOGS
    Some bigger dogs will resist any physical attempt to get them into a “down.” Try the food-bait method or the through-the-knees method above. If you have one of the giant breeds, such as a Saint Bernard, Mastiff, Deerhound, Wolfhound, etc., then you’ll need to sit on a chair and make a “bridge” of your thighs for the dog to go underneath.

METHOD #3: HOW TO TEACH A DOG “DOWN” WITH GENTLE FORCE

Ask your dog to sit, and kneel down beside him. Put one hand on his spine between the shoulder blades—on top of his back just behind his collar. Position your other hand beneath one of his front paws. Lift up and out on one front paw as you apply pressure to the shoulder blades. You are manually collapsing the dog, so don’t do it quickly or roughly in a way that could frighten him or cause resistance. Be firm but gentle, and move slowly. Praise him when he goes down onto the floor.

NOTE: This method is not advisable with very long-backed dogs like Dachshunds. Long, low breeds are hard to shift onto one shoulder for the enforced “down.” Try one of the other methods instead.

This method is just the “sit” in reverse: Once the dog is sitting, take a tasty morsel in your fingers and, with the other hand, place your open palm on the dog’s shoulder and back. Hold the food tidbit in front of his nose. Instead of raising it above and behind his head as with the “sit,” you want to hold it very close to his nose but in front of him, then lower the treat to the ground while saying “Dooown.”

Your dog will have it “down” in no time flat.

SHOP DOG COLLARS AND LEASHES

You may also like:
How to Start Training Your Dog
How to Teach a Dog or Puppy to Sit
How to Teach a Dog or Puppy to Come


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