“Down” is a foundation behavior.
What Is It?
It’s what I like to call a Building Block behavior that all good dogs need to know. Down is simply when the dog lies on the floor on his belly. We don’t need to teach dogs how to lie down, they already know that. What we do need to teach them is how we ask them to do the behavior.
When and Why to Use Down in Everyday Life
Down is a good still behavior. It’s like a pause button for your dog. If your dog is lying on the floor, he can’t also be lunging at another dog, jumping on you, or counter surfing. In other words, it’s a great alternate behavior for your dog to do instead of all those pesky behaviors he does.
How to Teach Down
To teach your dog to lie on the floor, follow these simple steps.
- Ask your dog to sit.
- As soon as he sits, put your flat hand (palm down) directly in front of his nose and slowly lower your hand to the floor or ground.
- Click and treat when your dog lies down.
Add the Word
When you’re ready to bet me $100 that your dog will lie down when you move your hand to the floor, it’s time to add the word for “down.” Simply say the word “down,” then lower your hand. Adding the word too early means you’re labeling a “halfway” behavior. We wait to add the word until we know the dog is going to do the behavior and do it correctly. That will result in a much cleaner behavior and also a dog that learns to listen for the word.
Trouble Shooting and Tips
- If your dog has a hard time following your hand, you can put a small treat in your hand and have him follow the treat to the ground. THE RULES: you can use that treat as a lure only three times, then you’ve got to do it with an empty hand. Remember to click when your dog lies down and then get him the treat to reinforce his great behavior.
- Move your hand slowly from your dog’s nose straight down to between his toes.
- If your dog gets up from the sit before he lies down, simply ask him to sit again. As soon as he sits, begin the process again.
- To make it easy to reset your dog and get him ready to lie down again, toss the treat after you click so the dog has to get up to get the reinforcer.
In the video, notice that I’m crouching down instead of standing up. There’s a reason for that: I want the dog to notice only my hand movement. If I were standing straight, and had to bend at the waist to get my hand to the floor, the dog will notice the largest movement — my bending at the waist.
Down is a useful behavior and won’t take any time to teach. You’ll be pleased with how your dog can focus remain calm when he’s in the down position if you practice in real-life scenarios. Happy training!
Leave a comment with a “down” success stories. When did down save the day for you and your dog?
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