How to Train Your Dog to Drop Down

Medium
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

Imagine your favorite dog walk passes a quaint, sidewalk cafe. Many times you think about stopping for a refreshing drink and a puppuccino for your four-legged friend, but you don't. What holds you back is knowing there's no way the dog will behave and sit quietly for that length of time. An image plays in your head of tying the leash to a table, only to have the dog take off with the table clattering after him down the street.

Instead, think what it would be like if the dog had an impeccable ‘Drop’.  With a simple hand signal and a firm "Drop" command, he lies down on the ground and waits. Of course, being in a lying position means he's comfortable and halfway to settling down for a snooze while you enjoy that drink.

The difference between the two scenarios is the ‘down’ command. Teach your dog to do this on command and life becomes much easier.

Defining Tasks

"Down" has many uses. Lying down is a comfortable position for a dog, which makes it a great command when he needs to stay still for a prolonged period of time.

Each dog is an individual and some learn ‘down’ very quickly. Conversely, some dogs seem to find the idea difficult to grasp and act as if the ground is red-hot when asked to drop down. If this is the case, be prepared to be patient and work with the dog to learn each step of the ‘down’ process before challenging him with the next part.

It also helps if you have everything going in your favor, such as providing a comfortable surface to lie on and by starting out in a quiet environment with few distractions. But don't forget, you can backup your training by labeling a natural down (when the dog happens to be lying down and relaxed) by repeating "down" in a firm but happy voice. This goes some way to building a mental bridge between the word and what's expected.

Getting Started

Use reward-based training methods, which means encouraging the desired action and then rewarding it with treats. In the case of a failed ‘down’, do not punish the dog, but rather lure him back down and praise him.

It's helpful, but not essential, if the dog knows the ‘sit’ command already.

To get started you'll need:

  • Treats, perhaps even super-tasty treats that are especially appealing
  • A quiet place to train
  • A towel or mat for the dog to lie on

Decide on the cue word such as "Drop" or "Down", and stick to it. Say the command in a firm but happy voice, so the dog knows he's expected to obey. Likewise, decide on a hand movement to trigger the action. A typical gesture is to either point at the ground or make as if to place your palm on the floor.

The Lure to Drop Method

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Lure to Drop method for Drop Down
Step
1
Get the dog's attention
Hold a treat in your fingers near the dog's nose to get his attention.
Step
2
Have the dog sit
Give the ‘sit’ command, lure him with the treat if necessary. While you can go from a stand to down, this is more challenging.
Step
3
Lure him down
With the dog sitting, hold the treat by his nose then travel the treat downwards, close in against his chest. You may need to experiment with different distances to find the sweet spot where the dog lies down as the easiest way to follow the reward.
Step
4
Reward the down
With the dog having followed the treat and now lying, say "Down" and give the hand signal, and quickly give him the treat.
Step
5
Extand the down
With the dog learning to follow the treat, now start phasing out the treat. Make your fingers smelly from the treat, but actually hold the reward in the opposite hand. Have him follow the empty hand, and once down, reward with the other. Now you can start extending the time he has to wait in the down position to get the reward.
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The Capture the Down Method

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Capture the Down method for Drop Down
Step
1
Wait for a natural down
The aim is to teach the dog that lying down has a name, "Down", and when he offers that action he gets a reward. Wait for the dog to lie down on his own accord.
Step
2
Label the 'down' and reward
With the dog lying, say "Down" in a firm but happy voice and toss him a treat. He'll probably now get up, but ignore him.
Step
3
Repeat
Wait for the dog to lie back down, and repeat the "Down" and toss a treat.
Step
4
Wait the dog out
The dog may now stand and stare at you expectantly, but ignore him. Wait until he gets fed up and lies down of his own accord. At this point, give the cue word and reward him.
Step
5
Give the 'down' command
With the dog cottoning on that his actions can trigger a reward, try giving the ‘down’ command. If the training has progressed far enough, he'll then offer the down, at which point, praise him and give a treat.
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The Trip-Ups to Avoid Method

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Trip-Ups to Avoid method for Drop Down
Step
1
Cold floors
Some dogs dislike lying on a cold or wet surface, which makes them naturally resistant to down. Try training on a towel or mat, so he's more comfortable.
Step
2
Slippery floors
If the dog slides on a slippery floor, he may not feel secure enough to go down, so chose the training surface carefully that is both comfortable and gives a good grip for the dog.
Step
3
Arthritis
If yours is an older dog, bear in mind that stiff arthritic hips or elbows can make lying tricky. Should he be unusually reluctant to lie down then get him checked out by a vet.
Step
4
Avoid leaning over the dog
Be mindful of your body language when teaching the dog. If your loom or lean over the dog then he many feel intimidated. This can result in him either not obeying or trying to back away from you.
Step
5
Avoid distractions
Make sure the dog is concentrating on you and you alone. This means starting out in a quiet, distraction-free environment where the dog focuses on you.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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