Is Teaching Your Dog “Down” Difficult?
Some dogs feel uncomfortable in a subjective position such as “down.” Since dogs do this behavior naturally; they don’t need to learn “how” to do it. By rewarding your dog whenever you see him or her going DOWN naturally, you take advantage of them performing this in an environment comfortable to them; teaching them that this is fun, non-threatening and earns them great things! Later, we will add “STAY”.
Capture: anytime you see your dog in the act of lying DOWN, toss the treat so your dog has to get up to get it, resetting him to perform again.
Shape: Treat or praise, even for partial downs! Once the dog is offering partials reliably, do several repetitions, then withhold the click to see if he will offer you more out of frustration. Take whatever he gives you, even if it is just a little bit more, award then treat, if you get the whole DOWN – praise and Jackpot! (Besides, the “Play Bow” is an adorable behavior all by itself!
Lure: from SIT, hold a treat at the dog’s nose then slowly lower it straight down to the floor toward your dog’s paws, begin dragging it on the ground away from the dog very slowly. Imagine you are drawing the letter “L” with the treat from the dog’s nose to the ground and across. C/T as your dog is in the process of lying DOWN rather than after he is already resting.
If the dog is standing, slowly lower the treat from the nose to the floor, angling towards the dogs’ paws. This will help them “fold” backwards into DOWN.
You may opt to drag the treat under your leg or other low object to make them crouch to get to it. As they get better, keep shaping a little bit more of what you want until your dog gets it!
Practice in a quiet environment to start. Vary the reward schedule. Increase and change environments, going back to a constant reward in the new environment then vary the reward schedule (slot machine payoffs) as the dog is good in the new places. Remember: Jackpot randomly as well as for great performances. When your dog is ready, put the DOWN on cue. This is done when the behavior is solid and predictable. Be sure to pick a cue that is simple (one syllable) and is not the same as any other cue (some people say “DOWN”, to mean “off”) it must be clear to your dog.
Suggested Cue and Hand Signal
Cue: “Rover, DOWN.” Said in your normal, conversational tone of voice. If you say “DOWN” to get your dog Off of people or things, then consider “Drop”, “Lay” or “Lie”.
Signal: Bend your arm at the elbow, bringing your hand to mid-chest (like you are saluting the flag), palm facing DOWN, then lower your hand and forearm about 5 inches. Do not get in the habit of bending DOWN and touching the ground.
Release: “ALL DONE!”
Remember that DOWN and STAY are two different things and we’ll be doing STAY exercises after your DOWN is solidly on cue.
“Remember, if you do not make the conscious choice to be the Trainer…you are by default, the Trainee.”
As a dog trainer, I believe that the most effective method of dog training revolves around teaching your dog what you want them to do, how to behave, how to act in their environment, and what appropriate behaviors are, under given circumstances and situations.
If you’re having a difficult time training your dog, don’t have the time to train him properly, or you would like to learn along with your pup.
Group classes are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 but we are doing private lessons and will reopen group classes as soon as we can.
Contact me or call me at 206-799-0521