How to Train Your Dog to Perform the Down Position

Medium
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

Call it 'Down', 'Drop', or 'Lie', this is one of the more advanced basic commands.

Put yourself in the following scenario:

You and your dog are enjoying a walk on a beautiful spring day. He ambles off-lead, sniffing the grass as you stroll along a woodland path. The trees start to thin and you emerge back out onto the sidewalk just as the dog spots a cat on the opposite side of the street. He darts off, racing straight for the road as a car sweeps round the corner. Horrified, you realize he's about to run straight into its path.

What do you do?

Simple! Taking a good lungful of air, you holler "Down". He drops to the sidewalk, giving you time to run over and grab his collar.

Your dog is trained to "Down".

The 'Down' command has two important assets. One, it requires to dog to stop moving, and two, it takes more effort to rise from down than sit, hence putting you in control and buying time.

Defining Tasks

Teaching a dog to lie down gives your great control in a whole variety of situations. It involves the dog transiting from a sit, standing position, or even running, to lying upright on the ground waiting for the next command.  

From lying quietly at a cafe to dropping down instead of running into a road, this is a great skill to teach. Indeed an emergency 'Down' could even save his life. And once he's mastered 'Down', you can further improve his obedience by adding distance (stepping away from him) or time (having lie for timed periods)

The 'Down' position is deceptively difficult for some dogs to master, so be patient with your pooch (as with any training exercise.) Remember, if he is struggling, end the session on a positive note and start again later. Training should always be fun, so give him marks for effort and be happy that he gave it a go.

Getting Started

You will need:

  • Tasty treats: Dogs learn best when good actions are rewarded. Choosing a tasty treat the dog will work for is half the battle
  • Clicker (optional):  Some owners prefer to clicker train, as this makes marking the desired behavior super easy.

Start your training in a quiet location away from distractions. It's also helpful if you are familiar with the principles of reward-based training, and the dog already knows how to sit.

Always make training sessions fun, so be extravagant with praise when the dog does as commanded. However, if the dog is struggling to concentrate or seems confused, bring the session to an end.

Daily training is essential, with three, five to ten minutes sessions per day being preferable to one 15 to 30-minute session.

The Treat in Hand Method

ribbon-method-2
Most Recommended
12 Votes
Treat in Hand method for Perform the Down Position
Step
1
Sit
Start with the dog in a sitting position.
Step
2
Introduce treat
Hold a treat in your hand and show it to the dog to gain his attention, while he remains sitting.
Step
3
Lead with treat
Bring the treat close to his nose, then lower your hand down past his chest to the floor between his paws. The pup should drop to the ground to investigate the treat.
Step
4
Introduce command
As the dog follows the treat and lies down, say "Down" in a clear voice.
Step
5
Reward "down"
Once he is in the down position, let him have the treat and praise him.
Step
6
Encourage staying
Stroke his back and encourage him to stay down.
Recommend training method?

The Treat on Floor Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
6 Votes
Treat on Floor method for Perform the Down Position
Step
1
Sit
This is for dogs that are slow to catch on. Start with the dog in a sitting position.
Step
2
Introduce and lead with treat
Make sure he knows you have a treat in your hand and lower it to the ground while saying "Down".
Step
3
Move treat to floor
If he doesn't follow, but stays sitting, place the treat on the floor but cover it with your hand.
Step
4
Encourage "down"
The dog will eventually become curious and lie down to investigate, at which point praise him and repeat "Down."
Step
5
Reward!
Now remove your hand and let him have the treat.
Step
6
Encourage staying
Stroke his back and encourage him to stay down.
Recommend training method?

The Down from a Distance Method

ribbon-method-1
Least Recommended
6 Votes
Down from a Distance method for Perform the Down Position
Step
1
Solid "down"
Once the dog has mastered a basic 'Down', start working on the giving hand signals and giving the command from a distance.
Step
2
Introduce hand signal
To do this, while saying 'Down' add in a hand signal, such as turning your palm to face the sky and raising the hand toward your shoulder
Step
3
Step away
Once the dog is in the down position, take a step away from him while repeating the command 'Down'. Wait a few seconds then return to him and give lots of praise.
Step
4
Make him wait
Also, try extending the length of time you ask the dog to stay down for. Work on one thing at a time, either the duration of the down or your distance away from him.
Step
5
Give command while walking
Once he has a good basic 'Down', start giving him the command when he's walking slowly to heel. As he masters this, start giving the command when he is standing a short distance away
Step
6
Give command at Increased speed and distance
Gradually increase the distance from you and the speed of his movement, at which you give the down command.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 09/19/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Cool
Labrador Retriever
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cool
Labrador Retriever
5 Months

How do I take him on walks without him jumping on me?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Blah, Check out the article I have linked below on jumping. I would use the Step toward - or to the side toward pup in this case, and especially the leash method when you are able to prepare for that jump. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump I would also practice the Turns method, utilizing the turns and changes in speed to keep pup's focus on you better, so pup has less time to jump. This method also utilizes rewards, so often pup's focus will be on trying to get another treat. When you feed a treat, feed it low and slightly behind your leg. You don't want pup to expect it to be out in front of you - or pup will try to stay in front of you where the treats come from. You also don't want to hold a treat over pup's head or pup will definitely be jumping trying to get the treat. Keep the treat below pup's chin when feeding. Turns method for heeling: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel The jumping is a common issue when first teaching puppies to heel. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Luna
Lhasa Apso
7 Weeks
0 found helpful
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Luna
Lhasa Apso
7 Weeks

I need help with getting her to potty in the right area and also sleep for long hours at night.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Anita, I would start by introducing a crate. Check out the article I have linked below and the Crate Training method and Tethering method. I recommend a combination of those two methods for potty training. I would also get pup used to the crate because that will be the best way to encourage sleep at night in the long run. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside At this age pup will need to go potty during the night at least a couple of times even once trained due to their small bladder. You should see improvement and gradual decrease of the number of potty trips needed as pup gets a little older though. The main goal right now is to get pup used to sleeping alone and to only wake up when they need to go potty and not for attention and other reasons. 1. When pup cries but doesn't have to go potty (like after you return them to the crate when they just went potty outside) be consistent about ignoring the crying until they go back to sleep. The more consistent you are the quicker the overall process tends to take even if it's hard to do for the first couple weeks. 2. When pup does truly need to go potty (when it's been at least 2 hours since pup last peed), take pup to go potty outside on a leash to keep pup focused and things calmer. Don't give treats, food, play, or much attention during these trips - boring and sleepy is the goal, then right back to bed after. This helps pup learn to only wake when they truly need to go potty and be able to put themselves back to sleep - helping them start sleeping longer stretches sooner and not ask to go out unless they actually need to potty. Pup will generally need 1-2 potty trips at night even after trained for a couple months though due to a small bladder. 3. Wait until pup asks to go potty by crying in the crate at night before you take them - opposed to setting an alarm clock, unless pup is having accidents in the crate and not asking to go out. This gives pup the chance to learn to start falling back to sleep when they wake in light sleep if they don't really need to go potty, instead of being woken up all the way when they could have held it a bit longer. 4. Practice the Surprise method from the article I have linked below to help pup get used to crate time during the day too - so that there is less crying at night due to pup adjusting to being alone. Surprise method - only give treats during daytime practice not at night though: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate 5. Set up the crate so that there isn't anything absorbent in it. You can use a bed like www.primopads.com or k9ballistics crate mats. An absorbent bed will encourage some puppies to go potty in the crate, which makes potty training and sleep training much harder for you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Autumn
Golden Retriever
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Autumn
Golden Retriever
7 Months

Over excitement when people come around. She jumps straight up and is just wild.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Francine, I would in general work on several commands that increase impulse control - this will take repetition and working her up to distractions gradually. Pup essentially needs an off-leash level of obedience to help with self-control, even though she is inside. One benefit of this, even though it will mean some work and time on your end, is that it should help pup learn better calmness and self-control in general and the training practice should stimulate her mentally, which can wear her out more. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leash method for jumping: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump I would work up to pup doing a 1 hour place command, gradually adding distractions like toys and food being dropped, family entering and exiting the front door, and you dancing around silly, start with the basics of Place and gradually make it harder as she improves, consistently returning her to place when she breaks command due to distraction, and keeping sessions frequent but short. You want to work up to pup handling all kinds of silly things when guests aren't there, including the front door opening, then recruit dog friendly friends who are willing to practicing entering and leaving your home over and over again to work up to pup being able to handle that distraction also. Once pup has stayed on Place for long enough to become calm and bored, then let pup get up to greet guests with a leash on to practice the leash method from the article linked above. I would instruct guests who want to greet pup to command pup to sit, then feed pup a treat under their chin (not holding it above their head or that encourages jumping), so that pup starts to expect to automatically sit to greet guests and has a go-to behavior that they can't do at the same time as jumping. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Abhi
Siberian Husky
3 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Abhi
Siberian Husky
3 Months

How to train him

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Next, check out these videos of a puppy class. Follow along with your puppy at home and practice the exercises to help with general basic obedience: Puppy Class videos: Week 1, pt 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnhJGU2NO5k Week 1, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-1-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 2, pt 1 https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-2-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 2, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-2-part-2-home-jasper-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 3, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-3-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 3, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-3-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 4, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-4-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 4, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-4-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 5, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-5-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 5, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-5-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 6, pt 1: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-6-part-1-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1 Week 6, pt 2: https://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/week-6-part-2-sirius-berkeley-puppy-1-0 Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Scruffy
Husky Hound Mix
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Scruffy
Husky Hound Mix
2 Years

Scruffy was a rescue we have had for 6 months. At first we could walk anywhere in the neighborhood. Now we cannot do that. She will stop in her tracks if we go to far from the house and she will refuse to move, especially if she hears a noise like a car door and children really cause her fear. We have progressed a little to walking a short distance from the house by giving her treats, but it is very dependent on what is going on around her. How can we help her get over her fears of unexpected noise and walk farther?

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

Hi there. I have some follow up questions that I am unable to ask, so I hope that I am not giving you repeat information. The first thing you can do is switch to a harness if you are using a collar. Another thing to try is to re-establish her confidence with being outside of the house. My dog (any many of my customers dogs) have gone through weird periods of time like this. You can set her up on leash, outside the home. Just far enough to the point where she refuses to walk. And sit there with her for about 10-15 minutes giving her treats whenever something startles her. This will teach her to associate positives with whatever is triggering her fear. Spend about a week doing this, no walking, and you will see improvement.

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Success
Sebastian
West highland terrier
4 Years

I have always always loved dogs!!! I have also for many many years taken care of my neighbors dogs when they were out of town or had to work late. I have taught my dog Sebastian all sorts of things he is especially good at soccer!! Seriously!!! I believe in rewarding them well. The neighborhood I live brings their dogs over to play with Sebastian because he is sociable and I’m a major dog lover. I’m a notary public. I’m very trustworthy and never meet a stranger and Dogs sense things. So as of yet I haven’t met one that hasn’t warmed up to me. I’ve also been a huge advocate for homeless dogs in our area. If I could adopt everyone of them I would...Recently our neighbor lost their dog. They had the dog only a day and it was for his little girls. I took it upon myself to keep up the search, place food outside and water and I kept noticing him hanging around but he was very skiddish. I’m sure he had been abused but I’m happy to say that Sebastian my dog and I were finally able to get him to approach us and know there was no danger. The little girls screamed with delight when they got him back and the parents were so appreciative they tried to offer a cash reward but I refused. I did it from my heart because I knew this dog was going to be in a great environment and shown much love. It was a blessing!!! I also take Sebastian to nursing homes in the area and the people love it. It would be a god send to have a job like this because I love to walk and love being outside!!! Thank you!!!

4 years, 7 months ago
Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd