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Your Pit Bull puppy is a giant ball of energy, smashing around your house like a cannonball. You exercise her constantly, but she's still hard to control. You've already taught her 'sit' and she is an expert at coming on command, but you just can't quite get her behavior under control. Training your Pit Bull puppy to lie down on command gives you a way to refocus her energy. After just a couple of weeks, you'll have her dropping her belly to the floor in a heartbeat, totally focused on you.
'Down' is one of the basic skills all puppies should learn from a young age, along with 'sit', 'stay', and 'come'. Having your puppy lie down on command is a good way to begin raising a well-behaved adult dog. It is also a building block for many other commands, including fun ones like 'bang' and 'roll over'. Most Pit Bull puppies can grasp the skill within a couple of weeks, if they already know how to sit on command.
Choose a quiet, distraction-free area in your house where your puppy can focus completely on you. You also want some high-value training treats that your puppy doesn't get at any other time. If you are doing clicker training with your puppy, it works well with this command.
The Food Lure Method
Hide a treat in your hand
Tell your Pitbull puppy to sit and then show her you have a treat in your hand. Close your hand and hold it about an inch away from your puppy's nose.
Use the treat as a lure
Encourage your puppy to touch your hand with her nose and begin moving your hand down towards the ground. You want your puppy to keep her nose pressed against your hand the entire time and follow the treat towards the ground. If she gets up or pulls her nose away, say "nope" and stand up. This shows your puppy that those actions will stop her from getting a treat.
Wait until her nose is on the ground and lure her into a 'down'
Once your Pit Bull puppy's nose is on the ground, slide your hand along the ground away from her until she lies completely down. A proper 'down' is when her rear end and elbows are on the ground.
As soon as your Pitbull puppy's elbows are on the ground, praise her and place several treats in front of her. Leaving multiple treats on the ground prevents your puppy from getting up too quickly, reinforcing the command.
Puppies have short attention spans. You want to practice in five to 10 minutes sessions a couple of times a day rather than all at once. Keep training time fun so your puppy enjoys spending time with you.
The Natural Reinforcement Method
Catch your puppy doing good things
A slow but effective method of teaching your puppy to lie down is to start reinforcing her natural behavior by giving her treats when you see her lying down.
Wait and be ready
Stand in the same room as your Pit Bull puppy and wait for her to lie down on her own. As soon as her body hits the floor, say "down" and toss a treat a few feet in front of her.
Repeat the process
Your puppy will have to stand up to get the treat. Once she is on her feet, simply wait for her to lie back down again and repeat the same steps as before.
See if she is getting the hang of it
After a few training sessions, try saying "down" and see if your Pit Bull puppy responds to the word looking for a treat. If not, keep rewarding her natural behavior for a little longer.
Phase out the treats
Once your puppy is consistently lying down on command, pull back on the treats. Instead of giving her a reward every time, do it randomly so your pup doesn't know when to expect it. Eventually, you want to only be praising your puppy verbally, rather than giving her treats.
The Tunnel Method
Sit down near your puppy
With your Pit Bull puppy on either your left or right side, sit down on the floor. Raise your legs so they look like a tent or a tunnel.
Tempt your pup
Hold a treat on the opposite side of your legs from your puppy and slowly move it down towards the ground so it is partially under your legs. You want your puppy to be able to see and smell the treat.
Make her work for it
Move the treat out from under your legs, so your puppy has to crouch down under them to reach the treat. You want to get the treat far enough so your puppy is in a full 'down' position with her rear end and elbows on the floor.
Give your pup a yummy reward
As soon as your puppy is in a full 'down' position, give her some praise and drop the treat for her to grab. You want her to stay in position for a little before letting her up.
Add in the command word
When your puppy starts to get the hang of the trick, add in the command word. Right before her elbows hit the floor, say "down." Practice with the command and the tunnel several times.
Remove the tunnel
The final step of this method is to remove the tunnel and practice with only the command word. If your puppy doesn't quite have the hang of it, you can add the tunnel back in until she has a better grasp on it.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 03/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021