How to Teach Your Dog the Down Command

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How to Teach Your Dog the Down CommandDo you wish your dog would lie down and relax on command? Whether your dog is begging for food, obnoxiously sniffing or jumping on guests when they walk through the door or getting under your feet while you’re trying to cook dinner, sometimes you just want them to lie down and calm down for a little while. Once you teach the Sit command, you can easily teach your dog the Down command by following the simple steps below. Training this command makes life easier for you and your dog, so let’s get to it!

Teach Your Dog the Down Command

Have your dog sit in front of you while you hold a yummy treat in front of her nose.
Allow your dog to sniff the treat, but make sure she can’t grab it.
Slowly lower the treat down to the floor between your dog’s front paws while saying “Down”.
As soon as your dog’s belly hits the floor, give her the treat and praise her.
Practice the command with several short sessions a day.

Need some tips?

  • At first, keep the treat very close to your dog’s nose without letting her grab it.
  • If your dog is reluctant to follow the treat down to the floor, make sure you’re using her favorite treat or food since dogs work harder for high-value treats. Also, schedule the training sessions right before meal time when she’s hungry and more motivated.
  • Use your dog’s favorite toy instead of a treat if she’s not food motivated.
  • If your dog is overly excited and unable to focus, exercise her before training.
  • If your dog only lowers her head or doesn’t completely lie down, try moving the treat slightly towards you along the floor and she’ll probably lower herself all the way down.
  • For clicker trainers, simply click when your dog’s belly hits the floor to mark the behavior, then give the treat and praise.
  • Don’t try to physically force your dog into a down position which will only trigger their opposition reflex. Most dogs learn quickly by following their nose.

What’s Next?  Build on the Down Command!

  • Once your dog has caught on, practice gradually holding the treat further away and lowering it just slightly. You’ll be working towards eventually being able to hold the treat from a standing position without having to lower it at all as your dog learns the verbal command.
  • You can also combine a hand gesture along with the verbal command such as pointing to the ground when you say “Down”.
  • After your pup knows the command from a sitting position, train them to lie down from a standing position.
  • Slowly work to train the command from a distance and around distractions. You’ll know if your dog’s not listening well that you’ve probably increased the distance or distractions too much, just go back a step and practice a little more. Be patient with your pup as you work with her, especially around distractions.
  • Eventually you’ll reduce the number of treats before phasing them out completely. Even though the goal is to have your dog listen without using treats, it’s good to occasionally surprise your dog with a treat and you should always praise a dog for listening.

Haley was more than happy to earn some easy treats by demonstrating the Down command in this short video!

There you have it! It’s easy to teach your dog the Down command and it comes in handy for so many situations, from dining at an outdoor patio with your pooch to getting her prepped for the Canine Good Citizen test. My favorite use of the command is for when Haley’s looking for a handout at dinnertime. I don’t mind her begging as long as she’s in a down position on the floor.

Let me know how your training is coming along and share any tips of your own!

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How to Teach Your Dog the Down Command

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