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Having trouble snapping that perfect picture of your dog being the cutest? It’s difficult to capture him in just the right spot, but with this fun trick, you’ll be able to get him to settle for a short amount of time to give off the ultimate ‘cute dog’ look! Having your dog put his head down can either give off the impression that your dog is well behaved and relaxed, or you can convince everyone that he’s putting on a ‘guilty dog’ look to practice for his acting career! Either way, having this trick in your arsenal can offer your dog an opportunity to get some mental stimulation and obedience practice.
Teaching your dog to put his head down is likely one of the easier tricks for him to learn, as laying his head on the floor is already something he does very frequently, whether it’s just when he’s asleep or when he’s relaxed. This trick is perfect for beginners at obedience and dogs who are barely learning the basics.
To get started, the only thing you’ll need are treats for a reward and a pillow if your dog has trouble using the floor to start with. You may also choose to practice this trick on a raised surface like a sofa or a bed before moving to the floor, but the process behind it is the same. Take your dog for a walk beforehand to get some of his excess energy out, as it may be hard for him to sit still if he’s brimming with excitement. For this trick to work more effectively, your dog should be familiar, or at least partially familiar, with the ‘down’ command.
The Floor Method
Use the ‘down’ command
Get your dog settled on the floor in a ‘down’. If he’s prone to not holding it for very long, try to work quickly to teach him the new trick before he gets back up.
Hold a treat in front of his nose
The treat will act as a lure to guide him into the right position.
Slowly bring the treat to the floor
Using the tasty treat to guide him downward, coax your dog’s head down to the ground
Reward for progress
If he’s having trouble getting all the way down, reward in increments as he starts to lower his head. Reward with a treat every time he gets closer and closer to the ground.
Give a verbal command
Once your dog understands what you want, give a name to the trick. Things like ‘head down’ or ‘sad dog’ work well. Use this command before you start to guide his head down. Reward when he completes the behavior.
Increase the duration
Hold the reward for a little longer after his head touches the floor, rewarding for longer and longer periods of time where his head is being held in the ‘head down’ position. If he starts bobbing his head back up, go back to the last duration of time when he was successful and work your way from there again.
The Pillow Method
Find a pillow
You should preferably use one that can comfortably support the weight of your dog’s front end. It does not have to be a large pillow as it won’t be her whole body that will require it.
Guide your dog’s head to the pillow
Using the treat as a lure, slowly entice your her head down until it’s flat on the surface of the pillow.
As soon as her head is down, offer her the treat and give praise.
Give the trick a name
A verbal cue will help your dog remember the trick more easily. When she can place her head down readily for you, use the verbal cue and then guide her head down once more, rewarding for a completed ‘head down’. She will soon attribute the cue to the trick.
Get rid of the pillow
As the pillow is only a transitioning tool, once she understands the trick with the pillow, try getting rid of it. Set it to the side and ask for the ‘head down’ without it. Reward for positive progress. This part may require some extra practice.
Practice for length of time
Continue to practice the ‘head down’ command while extending how long your dog will hold it before rewarding her.
The Press Method
Start with ‘down’
With your dog in a ‘down’ position, have a treat in hand and ready.
Use the treat as a guide
Start with the treat in front of his nose, luring the dog’s head downwards.
Use a gentle press of the hand
With the palm of your hand on the back of your dog’s head up to the top of his neck, gently press his head downwards until it’s flat on the floor. Do not do this quickly or forcefully! Your dog should only need a little bit of coaxing to go downwards.
Hold your dog’s head in place
For 1-2 seconds, keep your palm gently on the back of his head to keep it down. Do not apply force. Petting him can be helpful as well, as it can get him to relax and keep his head down.
Reward for completion
Once his head has been down for a second or two, reward with the treat and offer praise.
Establish a verbal cue
Give the behavior a cue to get your dog familiar with it. Something short and sweet will work fine.
Remove your hand
Once he knows what you want, try it without using your hand.
The more you work on this trick with him, the better he’ll get at it. Try to practice it several times a day.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 12/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021