Training your puppy or adult dog to lie down on command can help to calm down excitable dogs and keep pups out of trouble. Some puppies, however, are hesitant to lie down and stay there, so patience and practice are key.
“Down is a fundamental skill for dogs as it serves as the cornerstone for teaching stay, go to spot, outside manners, and a variety of tricks,” says Kait Hembree, CVT, VTS-Behavior, KPA CTP, and Head of Training at GoodPup.
Besides being an important command for any dog to learn, “down” is one of the ten required skills for both puppies and adult dogs in order to complete the AKC Virtual Home Manners (VHM) title.
Virtual Home Manners is the answer when you want to train your dog at home, and the program can get you started on practical skills even before you attend any training classes. For the VHM test, a lure (i.e. a treat) may be used to help teach “down” to puppies up to 1-year-old, but no lure is allowed for adult dogs.
What You Need to Teach “Down” on Command
- Patience and a positive attitude
- A clicker (optional). If you haven’t learned clicker training yet, you can use a word like “yes!” to mark behaviors instead. Use a one-syllable word in the same tone of voice each time to maintain consistency.
Steps for Training “Down” With Luring
Luring refers to the practice of using a lure (often a treat) to get your puppy into the position you want. Luring is a frequently-used way to train basic commands like “down.”
- While your puppy is sitting, bring a treat up to their nose.
- Slowly bring the treat down to the ground between your pup’s front paws. Their head should lower to follow the treat.
- With the treat on the ground, begin sliding it away from the puppy towards you. Your pup’s front legs should gradually lower until they are lying down.
- As soon as your dog is in a down position, click (or mark), praise, and reward them with the lure/treat.
- Next, place a treat on the floor and lure your puppy with an empty hand. Reward them with the treat once they lie down. This will teach your pup that your hand lowering to the ground is a signal that means “down.”
- Finally, add a verbal cue of “down” a second before giving the hand signal. Eventually, your pup will learn to respond to the verbal cue alone.
While luring is a common method for training “down,” it doesn’t work for all dogs, and there are several other effective ways of training. If luring isn’t working for you, learn other ways to teach your dog to lie down on command.
Tips for Training Your Dog To Lie Down
- Plan your “down” training when your puppy is tired from play or a walk. It can be easier to teach a tired pup than one that is full of pent-up energy.
- Never physically force your dog into a down position, as it may intimidate or confuse them. If they don’t seem to be getting the picture, be patient and consider trying a different method.
- Always reward your dog while they’re still in the down position. If you wait until they sit or stand up again, you are marking the wrong behavior and encouraging your pup to leave the down position to earn their reward.