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Pete the Pug is cute, friendly, stubborn, smart, mischievous... did I mention stubborn? His owner has taught him to sit, and he is pretty good at that most of the time. Actually, he is a bit overweight so 'sit' is right up his alley! But when his owner tries to get him to lie down, Pete is a little resistant. Maybe lying down is not that comfortable for him; his home has hardwood floors. They don't provide good traction and are not super comfortable to lie down on. Or it might just be that Pete the Pug finds it too much effort to lie down unless it’s his idea. Remember the part about being stubborn? Oh yeah, and one more thing about this Pug, Pete, he sheds, a lot! When you have company over you might want to be able to direct Pete to lie down, and not crawl all over your friend wearing her new black dress, on the way to an event. Teaching your stubborn, hairy Pug to lie down does not have to be too difficult, it just requires a little persistence and technique!
Teaching your dog to lie down is a useful behavior to keep your pet from jumping up on people or things he is not supposed to. 'Lie down' also keeps your precocious Pug out of trouble or mischief, or maybe just the appearance of mischief, around people who are nervous of your dog-- like your Aunt with her skittish Siamese cat, or your 18 month old nephew who seems to be in his “scared of his own shadow” phase.
Most owners find that commanding their dog to 'sit' before commanding their dog to 'lie down' or 'down' works best, as your dog is already halfway there once he is in the sitting position. Once your dog has the hang of 'down' you may be able to cut out the intermediate step. 'Lie down' is a useful command in a variety of situations to provide control and safety for your dog, and is generally considered part of the standard set of obedience commands that every dog should know.
Teach your Pug to sit first, it is easier to get him into a 'down' position from a 'sit' position. Use treats to shape, lure, and reinforce the 'lie down' command. Pugs tend to be highly food motivated, so treats are guaranteed to be well received! If you are working with a young dog, you may need to find a quiet place, free from distractions to help your Pug focus on training. Start working in a place with good footing and with a cushioned surface like a mat or blanket for your comfort-loving Pug, to encourage him to lie down on command.
The Guide Down Method
Tap to sit
Tap Your Pug's bottom and say “sit”, apply light pressure if required, until your Pug sits.
Guide to lie down
While sitting get down to your dog's level on the floor, put a hand on his shoulders and say “down” as you gently sweep his front legs forward with your other hand.
Reinforce lie down
Pet your Pug and give him a treat while lying down to reinforce.
Encourage your dog to roll over onto his hip or side in a more relaxed position.
Repeat without guidance
Repeat until your dog starts responding to your direction to “sit” and “down” without having pressure applied.
The Lure Down Method
Lure to sit
Hold a treat over your Pug's head and say “sit”. In order to track the treat, your Pug will move back onto his bottom, to a sitting position. Once sitting, provide the treat. Repeat until well established.
From the sitting position, move your hand with the treat in it to the ground, so your Pug follows the treat's progress with his nose. Say “down” as your Pug moves down to the ground. Provide the treat. If your Pug puts his bottom in the air and does not lie down when lured, move the treat around to the side so he has to curl his head around and roll onto his side and lie down before providing the treat.
Introduce release command
Introduce the word “OK” to release your Pug from the 'down' position. Do not provide a treat until your dog remains lying down until his release word is provided.
Practice and increase the time required to lie down before being released.
Start substituting the treat with praise and affection to reward lie down.
The Shape Down Method
Wait for 'down'
Stand in front of your dog and wait for as long as it takes for your Pug to lie down on his own. Say “yes” or use a clicker and provide a treat.
Repeat and reward
Repeat several times until your treat-loving Pug catches on that if he lies down he gets rewarded.
Add verbal command
Start adding the command “down” when your Pug lies down. Continue to click or say “yes” and treat.
Practice and increase time
Stop using the clicker or "yes". Say “down” and wait for your Pug to lie down. Continue to provide a treat. Require your dog to stay lying down for longer periods of time before getting a treat. Practice often.
Start varying rewards for performing 'down'. Sometimes provide a treat, sometimes provide praise and affection. Gradually reduce the use of food.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 03/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021