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Ever go to the vet's and your pooch is jumping about the place, pacing, not sitting still, generally misbehaving, and causing you a lot of embarrassment? Well, fear not because there is a simple solution to this behavior, rooted in teaching your pooch a bit more obedience with a new trick. In a few simple steps, using a method of your choosing, you will be able to teach your pup to lie on his side.
Not only is this useful at the vet's for when they examine him, imagine all the uses it could have at home. When you need to take a good look at him because you think he’s hurt himself, just get him to lie on his side and this will make it a hundred times easier. Or imagine you need to clip his nails; wouldn’t it be far easier not to have a moving target, especially if he doesn’t like his paddy paws being touched?
Although some dogs naturally don’t like lying on their side particularly, this trick shouldn’t be too difficult to learn, especially if they already know the ‘sit’ and ‘lie down’ positions. Most dogs will learn this trick fairly quickly when taught consistently but in short, sharp bursts for a couple of weeks. This trick is best taught to puppies from 8-9 weeks of age, provided that they’ve been given a little time to settle in and adapt to their new environment. But don’t worry, older dogs can be taught this command as well, they may just take a little longer to pick it up. However, this command will certainly save you a lot of time by having your pooch lay still like a good boy on his side for basic grooming, such as hair brushing and nail clipping.
In order for your pooch to learn how to lie on his side, he’ll already need to have a good grasp of the ‘lie down’ position. Invest some time in getting this right with your pooch, before you attempt to teach him how to lie on his side. Get him a bag of his favorite tasty treats or cook up some chicken or sausages for him and slice them into sensibly sized pieces, to make sure you catch his attention. It would be ideal to teach your pup this command in a quiet setting, after he’s been on a bit of a walk to tire him out a bit and make sure his concentration is on you and not on playing.
The Down Position Method
Start with 'lie down'
If your pooch doesn’t already know this trick, go back and teach him, as this will be our starting point.
Grab the treats
Get one of those tasty treats and pop it under your dogs nose, so he smells it, pulling it over to his side so that he has to roll over on to his side to get it. Knowing 'roll over' before starting this trick may help him get it quicker.
If he does what you want him to and lies on his side, then give him lots of praise and a yummy treat to show him how good he’s been.
Repeat the previous two steps to make sure he really gets it.
Use a command
Now each time he gets it right and goes on his side, use a word of your choice to indicate you want him to do this, something like ‘side’ would be a good choice. After you’ve repeated the trick enough times, he should lie straight on his side without any of the other steps.
The Further Encouragement Method
Teach him to 'lie down'
Get your pooch to go into the 'lie down' position.
Get the treats ready
Try to get him to lie on his side by using the treat as a lure into the position you want him to go in.
Show him how it's done
Often, a pooch won’t lie in the side position with encouragement from the treat alone. In this instance, it’s often a good idea to gently manipulate his body into this position by moving his legs to the side.
Keep repeating and treating
Repeat the previous steps, giving him a treat every time he lies in the side position and stays there.
Introduce saying "side"
When he really gets it and it takes little effort to get him into the desired position, get him to associate it with your command by saying "side".
Just use 'side'
Soon, he should lay on his side with little encouragement except your ‘side’ command. However, be sure to give him a treat when he gets it right to show him he’s been a good boy.
The Acting Naturally Method
Watch your pooch
Keep an eye out for when your pooch lies naturally on his side.
Command when you see it
When he lies on his side naturally, get him to associate it with the word "side", as well as being rewarded.
Treat when you see it
When he lies on his side, give him a big treat.
Now see whether this method has worked by saying "side" and see if he goes to lie on his side.
If he doesn't get it
Keep reinforcing that this is what you wanted him to do by continuing to reward his natural behavior when he lies on his side. He might just need a bit more understanding of what you mean by ‘side’. If this still doesn’t work, try another training method.
Written by Catherine Lee-Smith
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 11/02/2017, edited: 01/08/2021