Dog Training 101: The Down Command

How To Teach Your Dog To Lay Down

Welcome to our second installment of the “101” series!

The down command is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog.  It is a submissive position, in nature if two dogs are fighting the one that lies down is the one that is giving control to the other dog.  I like to use the word “down” and not “lay” or “lay down”.

If you give a down command that your dog will respond to the first time you give the command-even under full distraction-you know that you have the respect of your dog. It helps to move forward in a lot of other areas once you have this command happening consistently.

It is best to introduce the command to the dog first by showing her what it is.   Give a visual and a verbal signal,  and then simply pull the dog down into the position.  Repeat that a number of times until you know the dog has understood what you want.  Hold the lead close under the dog’s neck and pull towards the ground.  You may have to start by pulling the dog all the way to the ground when showing them the command.  They will lie down, don’t worry.  When you give the command ‘down’, also use the visual signal of pointing to the ground.  DO  NOT REPEAT THE COMMAND.

What you should do next is (you guessed it) start making corrections on the dog using the line and the choke chain.  You will do a slight snap with the dog towards the ground and increase the firmness of that as you go until the dog makes the decision that it needs to respond when it hears the command.

It’s also important that the dog not get up from this position until we allow it.  If the dog rolls onto its back and shows you its belly, do not reinforce this kind of behavior from the dog by petting its belly.  Wait until the dog rolls over to give praise.

This command can take anywhere from thirty seconds to a few days to learn, depending on the dog.  Repeatedly call the dog and walk it around in a circle in the yard, and praise her.  Say “Good girl”, and pet her.

Then issue the down command verbally and visually.  Firmly, slowly pull the lead down and put her in the down position.  Once she’s down, praise her and make her stay a few moments.  Repeat this process.

Now if the dog rises up before you let her up then you should make the correction towards the ground again but  do not repeat that command.

As you continue you will start to use a little bit more force on the line for the corrections. When you start to increase a correction what you may find from the dog is more resistance in the form of aggression.

Because it is a submissive position, they may not be willing to give up their position of dominance over us if they believe they have established one.  So you may need to start using two hands to make your correction. Also, take them back to the spot where they should have performed the command if they get up and move.  Teach them that is where they should have done it.  They’ll learn!

Continue to make your corrections until you get the result that you’re looking for.

There are a whole list of things the dog will do to try and avoid having to respond to us. Because it is a submissive command they will simply try to look away and try toignore you. If the dog is stubborn enough, they may attempt to snap at you.  Just keep persisting.  Try to get three downs in a row.  Don’t overdo it in one session.  Sometimes you may find that your dog will resist repeatedly, but if you try again the next day the dog will respond perfectly.

Persistence is the key, you WILL get them to do it.  This command is SO important because of the submissiveness of it that you need to master it with your dog.  It is a building block of dog training.

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