How to Train Your Stubborn Dog to Lie Down

How to Train Your Stubborn Dog to Lie Down
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon5-10 Days
General training category iconGeneral

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.

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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.

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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!

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The Click & Praise Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Favorite Toy Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Irresistible Food Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Written by James Barra

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 12/01/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Hound

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Greyhound

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Five Years

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Question

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My dog does not follow the treat to the ground. He simply reaches down with his neck. If I push on his bum, he just resists. He also can't sit (greyhound), and most teaching methods start from a sit.

May 15, 2023

Hound's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Greyhounds often have an especially hard time with Sit and Down due to their anatomy as I am sure you know. I would try two different things. First, When luring the treat to the ground, touch the treat to his nose first to really get him sniffing it, then try to move it slowly enough that he can continue to sniff it as you are moving it, to keep him following you. Next, when the treat is touching the ground, and he is most likely reaching down or bowing, but still has his bottom in the air, try moving the treat underneath him very slowly, while he is still sniffing it, so it's going under his chest. Sometimes a dog will respond to that by moving onto their back legs and lying down that way if you keep them sniffing the treat and move it slowly enough. You will probably have to repeat doing this several times before he lies down. If he even begins to lie down but won't do it completely, praise and reward that immediately to help him see where you are going with the training, then require him to do it a little bit more each time in order to get the treat, until he is lying down. This is called shaping. Also, do this on carpet first. Often a dog will lie down more readily onto carpet or rugs, rather than hard floors. Finally, if he still won't do it, then you can capture the down position and put it on cue. This takes a bit longer but can still be effective. The Capture method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 23, 2023

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Obi

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Cocker Spaniel

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1 Year

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He’s really stubborn, and gets angry when the food in front of him is given to him immediately

May 3, 2022

Obi's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Briana, What specifically does pup do when they get angry? Some dogs will bark a little or get frustrated when they want the treat but aren't sure how to get it yet. That's normal. Often, rewarding small successes so pup is less frustrated, like pup lying partially down before expecting fully down, can help. Just because pup gets frustrated doesn't mean you give the treat yet either. Sometimes pup is testing whether they can do something else like bark instead of obey the command, and calm consistency, repeating the direction and waiting pup out is what's needed for pup to figure it out. Keep your attitude calm, reward small successes toward the goal - instead of expecting the full trick or command in the beginning, and keep training sessions often but short to help pup's attention span. If pup is aggressive toward you, then I recommend pausing what you are doing and speaking with a professional trainer who can evaluate pup and get more details about your relationship with pup and exactly what pup is doing and how you are training to address the aggression itself before working on this command. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 4, 2022


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