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It’s a nightmare getting your dog to move out of the way of the door, let alone getting him to follow any obedience commands. He’s so big and strong as well that he knows nobody can make him do anything. He’s gotten more stubborn as he’s got older. Now getting him into the car is a nightmare, he’ll just refuse and he knows he’s too heavy for you to lift him. Not being able to train him to lay down really causes problems sometimes. For example, when you’re at the vet you can’t get him to lie down so the vet can examine him properly.
Training your stubborn dog to lie down will open the door to a whole range of other possibilities. Succeed with this basic command and you’ll find teaching him to ‘wait’, ‘sit’ and any number of other instructions will be easier too.
Training your dog to lie down would normally be relatively straightforward. But you’ve got yourself a particularly tricky customer who doesn’t like following orders Fortunately, all dogs have a weak spot, and that is usually food. You need to find the food that drives him crazy and use that to assert your control. If he’s a puppy he should be a fast learner even if he’s stubborn. You may see results in just 5 days. If he’s older and been living without rules for many years then you’ve got more of a challenge on your hands. You may need up to 10 days before you see consistent results.
Succeed with this training and you’re halfway there to teaching him to ‘stay’ too. You’ll also be able to get him to lie down so he’s not stood in the way of the TV in the evenings.
Before you set to work you’ll need a few bits. The most important component is food. Take his favorite food, such as cheese, and break it into small pieces. You’ll also need a much-loved toy and a clicker for one of the methods.
You’ll need a quiet room to practice in at a time of the day where you both won’t be distracted. Try and set aside 10 minutes each day for the next week or so.
Once you’ve got all of that, just bring patience and a pro-active attitude and you’re good to get going!
The Click & Praise Method
Get him clicker friendly
Use the clicker to signal to him whenever he does something right. With any behavior he performs correctly, give him a click and then give him a treat. After some time you will have an effective way to signal to him when he’s acted correctly, speeding up the learning process.
Kneel in front of him so you’re at his height. Then hold out his absolute favorite food, right under his nose. Keep your hand firmly shut, you don’t want him to get to it, but you want him to sniff around and know what’s there.
Give your ‘down’ instruction in a clear voice. You can use any word you like, just make sure it’s not being used in conjunction with another command. Try and hold eye contact as you give the command, this will keep him focused.
Slowly move your hand towards the ground. His nose will follow your hand, forcing him to the floor. If he doesn’t move his back down you can gently push him down with your free hand. Don’t push too hard; you don’t want to scare or hurt him.
Click & reward
As soon as he hits the ground, click to let him know he’s done the right thing and hand over the treat. It’s important he gets the treat as soon as possible so he associates it with the behavior. Now practice this for several minutes each day. As he gets the hang of it you can just stand above him and slowly cut out the hand guide and the tasty treats. The clicker alone should do the trick now.
The Favorite Toy Method
Get him excited
Each morning and evening play around with one specific toy. Talk in an animated voice and get him as excited as possible. You can play tug of war, you can even take it on walks and play fetch. The more excited he is by it, the harder he’ll work for it when you start training.
Stand directly above him with the toy in your hand. Remain calm at this point, you want him to concentrate on your instructions. Make sure you’re in a quiet room where he won’t be distracted.
Give the command in a clear voice. Hold eye contact while you do it. At this point he’s probably staring up at you with an inquisitive look, but he’ll soon catch on. As you give the command, slowly move the toy towards the ground, but hold it firmly so he can’t get it. This will guide him all the way to the ground.
Once and only when he’s fully on the floor, give him the toy. Play around with it for a minute and give him lots of verbal praise. The more attention he gets from you now the more eager he will be to perform the behavior again for the play time.
Practice this several times each day. As you practice, give him less and less guidance. No longer lead him to the ground with the toy. Instead, stand above him holding the toy and just give the verbal command. Once he’s fully got the hang of it you can lose the toy and just rely on the instruction alone.
The Irresistible Food Method
Head for a quiet room with your dog in tow. Get his attention by kneeling in front of him and holding out a treat in front of his nose. As you’re setting up, don’t talk to him and play with him, just keep eye contact to get him focussed.
Give the command in a clear but upbeat voice. You want him to know this is a fun game, but you also want him to know you’re asking him to do something. You can use any word or phrase you like, just try and keep it relatively short.
Using the treat in your hand, slowly guide him to the floor. Move extremely slowly so he has to bend right down to get to it. Continue until your hand is flat on the floor, as is his face and body. If his bottom legs are up, use your other hand to gently push him to the ground.
As soon as he’s completely on the floor hand over the tasty treat. You can also play around with him for a minute. The more attention and praise he gets, the more keen he will be to play again.
Practice this several times each day. Consistency is key, so try not to have a couple of days break until he’s fully got the hang of it. When he is into the swing of it you can slowly cut out the treats.
By James Barra
Published: 12/01/2017, edited: 01/08/2021