How to Train Your Stubborn Dog to Lie Down

Medium
5-10 Days
General

Introduction

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.

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
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.
Step
2
Kneel
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.
Step
3
Verbal cue
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.
Step
4
Guide him
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

The Favorite Toy Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
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.
Step
2
Positioning
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.
Step
3
‘Down’
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.
Step
4
Reward
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.
Step
5
Reduce guidance
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.
Recommend training method?

The Irresistible Food Method

Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Setting up
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.
Step
2
‘Down’
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.
Step
3
Lead him
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.
Step
4
Reward
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.
Step
5
Practice
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Fred
Cross lab and collie
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Fred
Cross lab and collie
1 Year

Got him from a charity. He has been well trained in most things by previous owner except lying down. He sits without you saying anything. We can’t get him to lie down and have tried various methods; he just won’t go past sit. He is trying really hard to do what we want; I wonder if he was ‘over trained’ to sit, if that’s possible.
Our main reason to teach this is so he is comfortable and more stable in the car.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Caroline, First, using a treat, touch it to his nose until he is licking it, then move it toward the ground slowly enough that he can keep licking it the whole time. When it gets to the ground, slowly move the treat toward him, along the ground under his belly instead of moving it away from him like the article mentions. If he lies down when you do this, praise him and open your hand to let him have the treat. Sometimes dogs don't respond to moving the treat away from them and you have to move it toward them once it's on the ground. If the above tweak doesn't work, then check out the article linked below and follow the "Capture method" or the "Leash Pressure method". All of the methods from the article you commented on are versions of the Lure-Reward method from the article I linked below (the method from the article I linked below that I don't suggest you use since it hasn't been working). Lure Reward training is the quickest way to teach Down to most dogs, but some dogs do not like lying down because it's submissive, uncomfortable, or you may not be luring in a way that he can understand. When that's the case you need to use the Capture method or Leash Pressure method. Only use the leash pressure method if he isn't overly fearful or aggressive since that method is the firmest of the three. When you use the leash pressure method you are not physically forcing the dog to the ground, you are applying just enough downward pressure to make standing uncomfortable for him and waiting until the dog gets tired of being uncomfortable and chooses to lie down - at which point you will reward him heavily for lying down. Down command: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Fred's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Linus
Boxer Mix
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Linus
Boxer Mix
1 Year

He's super stubborn. I can get him to sit just fine but when it comes to laying down, I say it clearly a couple times, and nothing. The only way I can get him to lay down is tugging a LITTLE bit at his collar and down he goes. But it's getting to the point where I shouldn't have to do that anymore. He has IBS so I have to train him with toys, what should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mackenzie, Check out the article linked below. I suggest following the "Leash Pressure method" found there. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Linus's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Rover
German Shepherd
11 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rover
German Shepherd
11 Months

i can't get my dog to lie down. he does many things at perfect time but he can't just lie down. i tried the general way but his head can reach the treat perfectly and doesn't have the need to lie down. i used many things to get his attention but he can't do it.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
225 Dog owners recommended

Hello! If he won't let you train him to lie down, the next route to go is to just catch him in the act of laying down and treat and praise him (and give the command) when he does it on his own. This method takes a lot longer than luring, but for dogs who won't do it the traditional way, this is one of very few options!

Add a comment to Rover's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Taffy
Chihuahua
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Taffy
Chihuahua
9 Years

My dog lays down easily with the lure and will lay down if I pretend to have a treat and lure her then give her the treat with my other hand, but I cannot get her to understand the next step where I motion for her to lay down, but don't lure her all the way down. She just gets confused! My other dog learned it this way and can now do it with just a verbal command within a week.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
225 Dog owners recommended

Hello! If he won't let you train her to lie down, the next route to go is to just catch her in the act of laying down and treat and praise her (and give the command) when she does it on his own. This method takes a lot longer than luring, but for dogs who won't do it the traditional way, this is one of very few options!

Add a comment to Taffy's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Milo
Yorkshire Terrier
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Milo
Yorkshire Terrier
4 Years

He won’t lie down at all! I’ve tried all these techniques but he just paws at my hand and scratches. But he doesn’t get it at all.. he just stares at me or the treat. He hasn’t been with me long and the only thing his previous owner trained him was to sit.but I could do with some help as I’ve spent hours trying with him now.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Madison, First, try practicing Down with pup's back against the wall, like in a corner, so pup can't back up. When you lure pup with a treat have pup sniff it first, move your hand slow enough that pup continues to sniff it as you move it to the floor. Once it's touching the floor with pup sniffing, instead of moving the treat along the floor away from pup, very slowly move the treat along the floor under pup's belly. Sometimes pups respond better to the treat moving toward them instead of away, especially if their back is against a wall so they can't back up to get it. Doing all of this super slow is the trick. Start the entire thing with pup in the Sit position, and if they tend to pop up when you begin moving the treat, gently keep one of your hands resting on their lower back to encourage them to stay seated while they follow the treat - leading to their lower body lying on the ground instead of them standing up to follow the treat. Expect to repeat this a few times before pup lies down for the first time. Usually a dog will try different ways to get the treat before trying to lie down to reach it. As soon as pup's chest touches the ground, immediately praise and give the treat, even if pup only does it one out of every ten practices. The more pup does it and is instantly rewarded, the more they will realize that it was lying down that lead to the reward, and begin offering that position more quickly. If you still cannot get pup to lie down, check out the article I have linked below. You can also teach down using the Capture and the Leash Pressure methods instead. The Treat Lure method does tend to work the quickest once you are getting the initial lying down, even if it can be hard to get the initial down though. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down#:~:text=When%20your%20begins%20to%20lie,and%20offer%20her%20a%20treat.&text=If%20your%20dog%20does%20not,this%20until%20she%20lies%20down. Sometimes watching training videos of down being taught can also help. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI52a3u_Qvw Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Milo's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Porter
Tosa
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Porter
Tosa
7 Months

My puppy has been taught to lay down, & he was performing it on command very well. Over the last 2 weeks he has begun outright refusing to go down on command. He won’t follow a treat to the floor either, which is obviously the luring motion I used to teach him to go down on command. Why is he being stubborn now?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jeremy, First, I would check to make sure pup isn't sore or has a reason they would be uncomfortable lying down. If pup is lying down normally on their own and doesn't seem to be uncomfortable, it's likely behavioral. 7 months is essentially puppy teenagehood, and some puppies will test boundaries or become more distracted or refuse more submissive/vulnerable positions. I would have pup work for what they want in life, like Down before giving dinner, down before taking on a walk, down before tossing a ball, ect...When you give the down command, if pup is on a leash, keep pup's leash tight enough they only have room to lie down and stand still, not sniff or wander off, but they also shouldn't feel tension on the leash unless they are pulling. Wait pup out - if you have told pup Down and they are refusing and they want to do something like go sniff a tree, continue the walk, greet someone, ect...Wait. Expect to wait as long as 15 minutes at first. You will need to be calm but persistent. Has pup displayed any form of aggression toward you. If so, I would hire a professional trainer to help you with this. Check out the article linked below and the Capure and Leash Pressure methods. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Also, make sure that you are being calm and patient. You can still enforce commands and be a bit firm and very insistent with training, without acting angry or intimidating, or sounding like a command is a question instead of instruction. Down is a submissive position, so acting very intimidating can also cause a dog to try to avoid a submissive, vulnerable position like down. Calmness, confidence, and follow through tend to gain respect best. You may already have that attitude, but if not, it can be worth changing the way you interact with pup also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Porter's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Blu
Xl bully
16 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Blu
Xl bully
16 Weeks

Here is blu, I’m having a lot of problems with him, I know he’s only very young but he loves to be cheeky. I’m struggling with toilet training and basic commands, I have a 4 year old dog and she was very easy but this boy doesn’t seem to want to listen. We used pads and he was doing very well but all of a sudden he’s now using toilet everywhere but mats I let him go out every 30 minutes during the day, last time will be 8pm and I find myself coming down 3 to 4 times a night to clean a lot of toilet mess up and I don’t understand why and it’s becoming tiring 😩 could I get advice on when’s best to stop food so he doesn’t toilet everywhere during an evening please? We have mastered sit, paw and learning stay but getting him to lie down I’ve been doing it daily for over a week now and he’s still not got the most of it can I have advice on that also thank you.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emily, I recommend crate training pup to encourage them to hold it in the confined space of a crate. Crate training utilizes a dog's natural desire to keep a confined space clean. Check out the article I linked below and follow the crate training method. Is your end goal outside potty training or inside potty training? If your end goal is outside potty training, I would follow the first article I have linked for outside potty training and skip pee pads entirely. Crate Training method - outside: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If your goal is inside potty training, I recommend switching from pee pads to disposable real grass pads - since pee pads can confuse some dogs, since they are made out of fabric like carpet and rugs. I also recommend this crate training method for inside potty training. Crate Training method - inside: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Disposable real grass pad brands - also found on amazon: www.porchpotty.com www.freshpatch.com www.doggielawn.com For the Down, which method are you using? Is pup not lying down at all or are they simply inconsistent with obeying? If they are inconsistent, know that it generally takes about 6 weeks of regular practice before pup will be consistent with obeying just the Down command. If pup won't lie down at all to even practice the command, check out the video linked below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENcl04S6tio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9PMD0z4R6w I do recommend the Treat Luring type methods first for puppies, but if you are still struggling after watching that method being done in the video, check out the Leash Pressure method from the article linked below instead. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Blu's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd