Learning how to teach a dog to lay down on command is usually a natural progression from the sit command, although down may be easier to get right for many dogs before they master the sit command. We taught our dog to sit first then moved on to the down position. The way in which we did our training was to work through all the basics first during each session. Only after practicing the previous training did we move on to other things.
It is a good idea to do this because it gets you and your dog thinking about what was covered last time and allows you to ensure your dog has remembered their commands. Be careful if you do this though. I found that after time, when prompting a sitting position it was closely followed by a down position without giving any further command or gesture. It was as if he knew something was coming his way (treat) and he wanted to do all he could to make sure he got it.
While it was great that he could get his positions and posture right it was a little annoying that he wouldn’t always just sit and wait. I would suggest making a good separation between commands in training so they do not appear to your dog as a sequence of commands that always follow one another.
How To Train Your Dog To Lie Down On Command
Again, you can use either a passive capture approach to this, or lure your dog into the behaviour. If you want to take your time and use a passive approach then find a good area that is clear of distractions and maybe not so big that your dog can wander off. A small room in your house, maybe the bathroom or kitchen is ideal. This depends on how integrated your dog is within your household.
Ignore your dog. Wait a while until they get bored and lay down. If you’re lucky they often like to lay down anyway. Look out for when this happens and click the behaviour and reward. Again, ignore them and let them do what they want. They may try to get your attention for a while but ignore them. A good tip here is to turn your back on them with your arms folded. This says to the dog “I’m not interested, leave me alone.” When your dog gets bored and lays down again, click and reward.
Try this up to ten times and end the session. Repeat this again later in the day or you could leave it until the next day – it’s up to you. You will see that eventually your dog will start to initiate the behaviour themselves more often to earn their reward. You should now start to introduce a verbal cue. Whichever word you use you should say it clearly and firmly when your dog begins the down movement. You will start to notice certain signals from them just before they perform the action. When you can pick up these signals you will be able to time your cue right when the action starts. When your dog lays down, click and reward.
Now you can start to be selective. Your dog will become used to the cue but may still initiate the behaviour without it. Ignore those self initiated ‘downs’ and only click and reward those following a verbal cue. Practice, practice, practice and try the command in other rooms or locations so you know your dog is consistent. Don’t forget, little and often is the key, otherwise you may lose their attention and they will not try as hard. Above are examples of a good down. The dog is paying close attention to what you are doing and his position is good. You can see the trainer using a hand gesture to get the behaviour.
If you prefer the lure technique, which is a more active approach then you need to encourage your dog to lay down from the very beginning. This really depends on your dog. If they are always on the go it may be easier to lure them. If they lay down readily and often anyway, you may find a passive approach just as easy. Get a treat in your hand or, if small enough, between your fingers. Place your hand on the ground in front of your dog so they begin to move down to the ground to investigate what you have. When they begin their downward movement click then immediately turn your hand to give them the reward. You need to be careful that your dog doesn’t get the association wrong, thinking you are reinforcing the action of their nose touching your hand or any other undesirable behaviour at this stage.
It is that simple which ever method you use. With the active approach you are trying to get your dog to perform the behaviour when you want them to, instead of waiting for them to chose when they are ready. Either way the outcome is the same; mark the behaviour, improve the behaviour, introduce a verbal cue, only reward the behaviours form a cue.