Teaching Your Dog to Down

June 15, 2024

Teaching your dog to down is a rewarding experience for both you and your dog. Down is a foundation behavior that can be incredibly useful in various situations. Positive reinforcement training is highly effective for teaching this behavior. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

Positive reinforcement involves rewarding your dog for exhibiting desired behaviors. This approach encourages your dog to repeat those behaviors in the future. Rewards can include treats, praise, petting, or playtime. The key is to ensure the reward is something your dog truly values.

Here are Golden Paws Dog Training, we only use positive reinforcement methods that are fun for you and your dog. Check out more about how we train here.

Why Teach the Down Behavior

The down cue is useful for managing your dog’s behavior and also provides mental and physical relaxation. It can help in situations where you need your dog to stay calm, such as during vet visits, when guests arrive, or while you’re eating dinner.

Steps for Teaching Your Dog to Down

  1. Prepare Your Training Environment
    • Find a quiet, distraction-free area to start your training session.
    • Have a supply of small, tasty treats on hand.
  2. Start with the Sit Cue
    • Before teaching down, ensure your dog knows the sit cue, as it’s a natural progression.
  3. Use a Lure
    • Hold a treat in your hand and let your dog sniff it.
    • Slowly move the treat towards the ground, encouraging your dog to follow it with their nose.
    • As your dog’s nose follows the treat, move it slightly forward to encourage their body to lower.
  4. Mark the Behavior
    • As soon as your dog’s elbows touch the ground, say “yes” or use a clicker to mark the behavior. This helps your dog understand exactly what action is being rewarded.
  5. Reward Immediately
    • Give your dog the treat right after marking the behavior. This reinforces the connection between the action and the reward. Place the treats on the ground between the dog’s front legs.
  6. Add the Verbal Cue
    • Once your dog is consistently following the lure and lying down, start adding the verbal cue down.
    • Say down just before you move the treat towards the ground.
    • Continue to mark and reward the behavior.
  7. Practice and Repeat
    • Practice this exercise several times a day in short, 5-10 minute sessions.
    • Gradually reduce the reliance on the lure by using the hand signal without a treat.
  8. Increase Difficulty
    • Once your dog reliably responds to the down cue, practice in different environments with more distractions.
    • Gradually increase the duration your dog stays in the down position before giving the reward.


Tips for Success Teaching Your Dog to Down

  • Be Patient and Consistent: Every dog learns at their own pace. Be patient and consistent with your cues and rewards.
  • Use High-Value Treats: Choose treats that your dog finds irresistible to keep them motivated.
  • Keep Sessions Short: Dogs have short attention spans. Keep training sessions brief and fun.
  • End on a Positive Note: Always end training sessions with success, even if it’s a simple cue your dog already knows well.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • Dog Doesn’t Follow the Lure: Ensure the treat is enticing enough and try moving it slower. You can also try practicing in a quieter environment.
  • Dog Gets Up Too Soon: If your dog gets up before you release them, avoid rewarding and calmly reset by asking them to sit first.

Using positive reinforcement to teach your dog to down is a straightforward and effective method that builds trust and enhances your bond. With patience, consistency, and lots of treats, your dog will master the down cue in no time. Happy training!


Looking for a more well-behaved dog?

If you’re seeking improved behavior from your dog, we’re here to help! Our comprehensive training programs are designed to enhance your dog’s behavior and manners. With our expert trainers, proven positive reinforcement methods, and small class sizes, you’ll see positive changes in your dog’s behavior in no time. Get started on the path to a better-behaved dog today! We can’t wait to see you in class!


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