How to Train Your Dog to Lay Down from a Distance

Hard
1-6 Months
General

Introduction

Teaching your dog to lie down is considered to be one of the more challenging commands for him to master. But being able to stop your dog in his tracks and make him lay down may save his life. For example, what if he has run across the road into a neighbor's yard? If you call for him to "come" he now has to cross the road a second time, which puts him in danger of being hit by a car. But, if you can teach him to lie or sit down at a distance, you can keep him safe until you cross the road to retrieve him.  There are several ways you can teach your dog to sit or lie down from a distance, including voice commands and hand signals or a combination of both.

Defining Tasks

The basic concept of this command is for your dog to learn to sit or lie down when he is some distance away from you. Done properly and by using hand signals such as a raised arm, you can train your dog to obey you even when he can't hear you; the actual command is no different than the one you would use if your dog was right in front of you.

Teaching your dog to sit or lay down when he is almost out of hearing range can be challenging and to be sure it is going to take some time to accomplish. Some experts say teaching your dog this behavior can take several months before you can count on him obeying your commands every time. However, with patience, you can teach any age dog "down from a distance".

Getting Started

What supplies you are likely to need will in part be determined by the method of training you choose to follow. Bear in mind that this type of training requires your dog's full concentration, so choose a location where there is not likely to be anything to distract him. As with all forms of dog training, you need to use a firm commanding voice that lets your pup know you expect him to comply and that you expect him to do so immediately, not when he feels like it. The one supply you will need, no matter what method of training you choose, is a plentiful supply of your pup's favorite treats. You may also need a leash, an assistant, and distraction devices.

The Traditional Method

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Traditional method for Lay Down from a Distance
Step
1
Introduce command
Start by standing in front of your dog and giving him the combined commands (verbal and hand signals) to lay down. If he moves, have your assistant lightly restrain him. Reward him when he gets it right.
Step
2
Repeat and retreat
Then repeat the process but wait until you have backed up a few paces before you give the commands. Each time he moves, stop and return him to the spot before backing up and giving the commands.
Step
3
Increase distance
Once you are comfortable with how well he is following your commands at a short distance, begin to slowly increase the distance, giving a treat when he gets it right.
Step
4
Go solo
Now remove the assistant, move back in closer, and repeat the process using a treat when he does a good job.
Step
5
Increase distance
Once he starts to do as commanded from a long distance, you can still reward him by tossing him a treat from where you stand. Remember it will take time, plenty of patience, and lots of treats before your pup gets it right all the time.
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The Leash Method

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Leash method for Lay Down from a Distance
Step
1
Position your dog
Start by attaching a short leash to your dog's collar and then attach the other end to a gatepost, tree, or anything that will hold him back if he tries to come to you.
Step
2
Introduce command
Command your dog to lay down with both voice and hand signals. Reward him if he does well.
Step
3
Repeat and retreat
Repeat this process from a few feet away, being sure to use both voice commands and hand signals. Your dog will soon learn to associate both with "down". Repeat as necessary and reward your pup when he gets it right.
Step
4
Increase distance
Back up a little farther and repeat the entire process, moving farther back each time as he does what is expected.
Step
5
Remove leash
Now remove the leash and repeat the same process, rewarding him when he does well but never punish him for getting it wrong. Be prepared for this process to take quite a while. It can take months for your dog to master the concept and follow your commands every time.
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The Three D's Method

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Three D's method for Lay Down from a Distance
Step
1
Down
Start with using a treat and the commands you plan to use for "Down." He needs to see and hear both. Once he learns to do this reward him with a treat.
Step
2
Duration
Now add a few seconds of duration between when he lies down and when you give him a treat. Continue this as you move farther away until he has to rely on your hand signal for the command.
Step
3
Distractions
Finally, add distractions such as a bouncing ball or perhaps have another person attempt to distract him. Each time he performs as expected, be sure to reward him with plenty of verbal praise and treats.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Axel
Doberman Pinscher
7 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Axel
Doberman Pinscher
7 Years

Our Doberman, Axel, is pretty obedient but on occasion has run out the front door when one of our kids leaves it open. He will bolt and not look back and we're worried he'll get seriously hurt if he runs into the street. What is the best way to get his attention so he can see the hand signal or hear our verbal command when he's running willdly like this?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
327 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, I would work on teaching him to look at you and freeze when you whistle, if you are able to whistle, or when you clap loudly and continuously. That way if he tends to be running back and forth across a street he will freeze when you clap or whistle so that you can then give him a command to either come or to lay down and stay until it is safe. Another trick for getting a dog to come to you in an emergency is to clap, wave your arms around, yell very happily and excitedly, and begin to run AWAY from the dog. Doing this gets most dogs very excited and encourages their chase instinct, so that they want to follow you because it is a fun game. It is important when you do this to act as excited and happy as you can, even though you are probably feeling panicked. The most important thing you can do though is to work on training Axel to respect doorways and to not bolt out the front door in the first place. He needs to learn that just because the front door is open that it does not mean that he can exit without permission. Best of luck training. Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Freddie
Labrador retriever border collie mix
18 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Freddie
Labrador retriever border collie mix
18 Months

Teaching my dog to sit (or lie down) at a distance: he has learnt to sit at a certain whistle signal. Now I want distance. However, to sit down, I need him to stand first. When I tell him to stay, and I walk away from him, he will absolutely stay - but he will do it sitting, awaiting what I am going to do next.
So my question is: How do i make him stand, so i can later from a distance command him to sit? (lie down)

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
327 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hanne, You can actually teach "Stand" as a command. Check out the video below for instructions on teaching it. https://youtu.be/Iv9TGQ2EYc4 Just like a Down and a Sit, you work up to having him Stand from a distance, for longer periods of time, and around distractions too - to get a reliable "Stand-Stay." Once he has learned what "Stand' means, then tell him to "Stay" and practice backing away and returning and repositioning him back into the stand position if he tries to get up - this is a gradual process just like Sit. You will also want to practice telling him to "Sleep" while standing further away. To do this, add one more foot of distance between you and him whenever he can do the command from the current distance, until you have worked up to the distance you need. If he sits, you can either rush back in and place him back into the Stand position (which he knows because you taught him the command), or you can rig up a leash underneath his belly from side to side, so that if he tries to sit, the leash touches his belly and reminds him to stay standing. The leash is good for practicing the stand by itself until he masters it. Once you get ready to also do sit or down from that position you will need to remove it - consider it training wheels for him. Another way to do this is to loop the end of a fifty foot leash loosely around his abdomen and to run the leash around a tree behind him and back toward you. This gives you a pully system, letting you give the leash a tug to remind him to stand up and also to keep him from coming toward you before sitting or standing or downing in place when commanded. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dear Caitlin, thank you very much! Your suggestions were very helpful, and it is about time for a little report - and som further issues ;-)

So, we trained from "stand" to "stand + stay + sit and stay at a distance" (whistle and handsignal). The most difficult part was actually "stand".

At first, he was really confused about the stand command - attentive, excited and full of anticipation about the exercise and wanting to please, he kept sitting down, as so often is what we want from our dogs ... After about 10 days he mastered the whole drill perfectly. We practised 5-10 minutes once or twice a day.

The next step was to teach him "sit + stay" at a distance without the first part of the drill - i.e. in a natural situation where he happens to be at a distance and I want him to sit + stay there and then.

We have succeeded doing this three times on three consecutive days. All three times I exploited situations where he happened to be at a distance and was looking towards me (an not busy sniffing, peeing, or the like). Each time I was really happy about how well he did, and I did not repeat until the next day. We will train this again and again.

Next, I would like him to react correctly (sit and stay till I come), even if he is busy and focused on something else but me, e.g. his natural dog behaviours and instincts. I am not quite sure how to get to this stage.

Example:
He is chasing a cat, the cat eventually diasappears, Freddie has lost sight of the cat, and he ends up on the other side of the road. Freddie may have given up the chase, but is still staring in the direction of the cat, adrenalin pumping. Now I need him to sit down and wait for me to come to him - before he runs back to me. I just wonder if this is feasable.

(This scenario actually took place five months ago. Since I didn't know how to stop my dog from running back to me, crossing the street a second time, I had to stop the traffic instead...

It would, of course, be a lot better if I could stop him in the middle of the chase and before the road! Or yet better, before the chase ... if I could teach him not to chase animals at all!

So, there are several issues here, and it would be really interesting to hear your comments.

Best regards, Hanne

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