How to Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

Goal: Your dog lies down on his stomach.

Uses: Down is a starting position for many tricks and other skills. It is also a good replacement behavior for certain problems, such as barking and begging. (It is less comfortable for a dog to bark while lying down than while standing, and a begging dog is less likely to be a pest if he is lying down.) This skill comes in handy if you want to get your dog to remain in a particular spot—he can't move around very easily on his stomach. It is also a safe and comfortable position for him to maintain while riding in a vehicle.

Training Technique: Most dogs learn this skill easier in stages. Be prepared to reward your dog for every little bit of progress he makes.

Training Steps

  1. Ask your dog to do a sit in front of you, and then attempt to lure him into a down position with a treat. Hold the treat on the floor in front of him, and when he is fixated on it, slowly draw it away from him so that he stretches out to get it.

  2. If your dog inches his front feet forward just a little bit while keeping his rear end planted, issue an immediate yes! and let him have the treat.

  3. Gradually ask your dog to stretch out more and more before you give him a yes! and a reward. He will eventually begin to drop his front end all the way to the floor.

  4. If he stands up during the training process, you may be trying to progress too fast. Take your time. It may take several training sessions before he rests his elbows on the floor in a full down position. When he does, plenty of enthusiastic praise is in order.

  5. When your dog has achieved a full down position, start using the verbal down command for this skill.

  6. Then instead of luring him into this position with a treat, you can begin to point to the ground in front of him when you instruct him to lie down. You want to gradually mold this gesture into the traditional hand signal for down, which consists of a flat hand, palm down, moving downward from your chest to your stomach.

  7. As with all obedience commands, you need to phase out food rewards for this skill and get your dog in the habit of obeying this command without such incentives. This, of course, does not mean there are no rewards for good manners. Praise and petting are always acceptable for good behavior.

  8. Don't forget to use the cue word good whenever your dog pleases you, and provide consistent, firm leadership so that he will work hard to meet your expectations.

  9. Janice Biniok has written numerous articles and books on companion animals. She is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America and has an English degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has been training and communicating with dogs for more than 35 years, but her five years working in the sport of canine musical freestyle impressed her with the dog's ability to learn an amazing number of human commands.


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