OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog to lie down on a single verbal or visual cue in a relaxed position, wherever they are, and to remain there until given another cue.
Remember, you must remain quiet during these exercises so that your dog can concentrate on learning and not become distracted. All communication will be via hand signal and the clicker. Praise such as “Good Dog” is okay after you have clicked and treated.
For these exercises, we are going to use a treat to lure the dog into the proper position. Then we will click and treat as soon as the dog does what we expect.
- With a treat in your hand, lure your dog into a down position by moving it straight down between his front paws. Keep the treat covered with your fingers and hold it on the floor. Your dog may paw or lick at your fingers, but be patient and wait for him to lie down. When he does lie down, click and treat. Do this for no more than 3 repetitions.
- Continuing with the lure, move your dog into the down position and then slowly move the treat to one side and back towards your dog’s hip. It is important to keep the treat level with your dog’s nose and move it slowly. The goal is for your dog to target the treat such that his body weight shifts and he rolls onto one hip into a more relaxed down position. Once in position, click and treat your dog. Do this for no more than 3 to 5 repetitions.
- Next, mimic the same motion as in step 2 only without the food lure in hand, rewarding the dog with a click and treat for every down. Do not go back to using the food lure, wait for the dog to respond to the hand signal. Repeat this step for 3 to 5 repetitions.
- Continue to practice step 3 slowly standing up incrementally with the end goal being for you to be able to stand straight and point to the ground and have your dog lie down in a relaxed position.
- Now we will start to build some duration into the behavior by beginning to delay the click. For example, the next time your dog lies down, silently count to two before clicking and treating. Yo-yo the amount of time you pause before clicking from immediate to up to 10 seconds. Do this for several repetitions.
- Move to a new location and repeat steps 1 through 5 until your dog is readily offering to lie down in response to your cue. Practice this behavior in at least 5 different locations.
- Change your orientation to your dog. If you have been standing, try sitting in a chair while repeating steps 1 through 6. You may need to return to the lure, but if this is the case be sure to only lure once or twice. Continue until your dog is readily offering to lie down.
- Change your distance to the dog. Either have someone else hold the dog’s leash or attach the end of the leash to something secure. Step 1 foot away from your dog and use your hand cue for down. Continue until your dog is readily offering to down on a single hand cue. Continue to practice this at varying distances to the dog.
- When your dog is responding well in a wide range of environments, you are ready to add the verbal cue.
- Say “down” approximately 1 to 2 seconds before you give your dog the hand signal for “down”. It is important to briefly separate the verbal cue “down” from the hand signal “down” because if the cues occur simultaneously the dog is more apt to respond to the visual cue and not learn the audible cue as well.
- The instant the dog is lying down, click and treat.
- Do NOT immediately repeat the verbal cue if your dog does not lie down. Ignore the dog for about 15 seconds before trying again. If the dog does not perform the behavior after 2 or 3 attempts you are not ready to add the verbal cue to the hand signal. Wait until the visual cue is more reliable before attempting to add the verbal cue.
- After repeating the above sequence several times, your dog should start to associate the word “down” with this behavior. As you work on this, do not click and treat when the dog lies down without your first giving them a visual or verbal cue to down.
- When your dog is responding to the verbal cue, it is time to proof the behavior.
Work on DOWN in different locations (bank, post office, class, etc)
Work on DOWN with you in different orientations to your dog (in front of, behind, on left side, on right side, sitting, etc.)
Work on DOWN at various distances to your dog
Work on DOWN for various durations
For those dogs that struggle with the down position, you may wish to begin by using the “tunnel” method before proceeding to the method explained above. This “tunnel” method is often useful for the smaller dog breeds.
- Sit on the floor next to your dog and raise one of your knees in the air to form a low tunnel. Place a treat in your hand and make sure that your dog is targeting the treat by moving your hand from side to side. If your dog is following the treat in your hand, he is targeting.
- We will now lure a down by lure targeting. With the clicker in one hand and. the treat in the other, lure your dog into a down by touching the treat to his noise and guiding him under the tunnel formed by your leg. Your dog will need to lie down in order to keep his nose on the treat.
- If your dog does not follow the treat, slow down, you may be moving too fast. Some dogs may be nervous about going down. You may even need to shape this behavior, rewarding the dog for incremental movements towards the down position.
- As soon as your dog is in a down position, click and open your hand so that he gets the treat.
- Do this for 3-5 repetitions or until your dog is readily lying down in the tunnel. Now is the time to see if the dog will move into a down without the tunnel and you should return to the first step method 1.