How to Train your Dog to lie Down

Here is another exercise that your dog already knows. However, just because he knows how to lie down doesn’t mean it’s easy to perform on cue. Many dogs resist being told to lie down. It’s probably sort of humiliating and intimidating, because the position allows people to tower over them.

Again, the lure is the preferred method. Your dog can be in a sitting or standing position; I prefer to teach lie down from a stand, but it’s not particularly important at this stage. Give your dog a small treat. Now, showing him that you have another treat, move your lure hand quickly down in front of him and then draw it forward. If all goes well, he should lie down.

As he does so, say, “Lie down.” Mark and treat when his whole body is on the floor.

Sometimes all doesn’t go well, and your dog doesn’t drop down. Alternative methods include holding the treat between his two front paws so he has to buckle and drop to get it, or moving it close to his side on the floor. As he reaches around to get it, he will curl into a “C” and drop into the down. When he hits the ground, mark and treat.

As with the sit, after several repetitions, put the treat in your other hand and lure without the treat. If you are successful, mark and deliver your treat out of your other hand. One of the complaints I hear from my clients is, “My dog is only obedient when I show him the treat first.” This method eliminates that problem and also sets you up for intermittent or random reinforcement.

Sometimes dogs refuse to be lured the easy way. If you’re willing to experiment, you can try a few other methods: You can sit on the floor with one knee up and lure the dog under that knee; you can lure him under a chair or low table; or you can just wait him out. Step on his leash so he won’t wander off, show him the lure, hold it on the ground, and wait. Eventually, most dogs will drop into a down, at which point you should mark and reward. If this fails, you can try modeling, which is physically helping your dog into position. (This is help, not force.) Kneel down beside the dog on his right side, and place your left hand on his shoulders. Use your right hand to lure him with the treat. If that doesn’t work either, try putting your right hand behind his front legs while gently putting pressure on his shoulder blades with your left hand. As mentioned before, the lure is much more effective than physically manipulating your dog; you’re likely to encounter a lot more resistance with this method. If your dog growls when you try placing him into the down, you should immediately stop the training session and take a time-out. You’ll need to reexamine your relationship with your dog and make sure he sees you as a leader. He must regard you as such before he’ll allow you to make him lie down on command.

In any case, when he’s prone, mark and reward. Most dogs will pop up immediately, which is fine. Continue with more repetitions, and as he gets better, delay the mark until he’s been down for a few seconds. You can give him a couple more treats while he’s lying down, and tell him what a wonderful dog he is. When you’re ready, mark and treat, and follow with your release word.

Don’t get angry, even if you think your dog is very stubborn and he behaves as though he will never lie down! He’s probably confused, and when he understands, he’ll comply—if you’re patient. It takes some dogs a long time.

If your dog is already a good retriever, you can play a game that includes lying down on cue. Use the ball as a lure. When your dog drops to the ground, mark and then quickly throw the ball behind him. Retrieving the ball is his reward! After he’s given the ball back to you, repeat the process. With enough repetitions, you will have a fast and reliable down.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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