The Ins and Outs of Down

The Ins and Outs of Down

Teaching your dog to lay down is one of those basic skills that every dog trainer teaches and most dog owners start teaching soon after getting their dogs.  Down is a great skill for your dog to have, here are some things to consider when teaching your dog to “down”.

  • Consider using something that interests your dog (like treats or toys) to help lure your dog’s head downward and then outward.  Using a lure in this manner is a great way to start to shape a behavior and reward as well.
  • If toys or treats are not enough to help lure your dog into the desired position, you may have to rely on leash pressure to get them to go down.
  • It may be helpful to have your dog sit before going into a down.  When ready, skip the sit and just cue them to lay down.  Your dog may naturally sit before going into a down but the cueing them to sit will become unnecessary at some point.
  • Helping your dog is going to be part of the initial teaching period but start to ween them off of some of the help as they become more familiar with what you are asking.  Example: if you are using treats to lure your dog’s head to the ground, begin to hold off on the lure or not bend down as much in hopes that they will soon take the initiative and begin the act of laying down without so much help from you.  Remember, body cues and hand signals are great aids to teaching but at some point we want your dog to be able to perform without so much help from you.
  • Practice downing with your dog on multiple surfaces, like grass, carpet, wood flooring, tile flooring, gravel, in the backseat of the car, on a placeboard, etc.
  • Make sure you are cueing your dog for down from multiple angles in relation to your body.  If you only teach down (or any command) from one sight picture, your dog will not be able to perform that act unless you are standing in a certain position or holding your finger up just right.
  • Teaching your dog to sit from a down is a nice skill to have as well.  Consider telling them to “come” (this will get their belly off of the ground) and then immediately cueing them to sit.  We find this works better than yanking on your dogs collar and leash and pulling their chest off of the ground.  Eventually you can eliminate the word come and just have your dog doing some “push ups” (sit, down, sit, down).
  • When ready, add in some distance when teaching your dog to lay down.  Having the ability to communicate with your dog from a distance will help you manage them correctly in almost any situation.
  • Also when ready, extend the duration of your dog’s down.  We do not teach the word “stay”, but we teach the dogs to hold the sit or the down until they are released or told to do something else.  Start off short but be sure to add to the amount of time your dog is able to successfully hold their down.


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