How to Train Your Dog to Lie Down

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Does your dog know how to lie down on cue? All dogs should know how to lie down when asked. Teaching the "down" cue to your dog is almost as simple as training your dog to sit. This is an important basic command. Down can be very useful to help your dog relax in a hectic situation or to keep him in a stay for a long period of time. It's also the first step in certain dog tricks, such as roll over.

When your dog is in the proper down position, his chest, elbows, and hocks are in contact with the ground. Ideally, your dog will remain down until you release him (many people use the word "okay" for the release cue). With practice, you can get your dog to perfect his down. This is an easy command to teach.

Training Your Dog to Lie Down

Before you begin, make sure you have plenty of tasty training treats to offer your dog. Ideally, the treats should be small, soft, and delicious to your dog. Set aside 5-10 minutes in a quiet area free of distractions. If you use clicker training with your dog, be sure to have your clicker handy.

  1. Get your dog’s attention and show him that you have a treat in your hand.
  2. Hold the treat in front your dog’s nose.
  3. Slowly move the treat towards the ground.
  4. As soon as your dog’s elbows and hocks are on the ground, give your dog the treat followed by petting and praising.
  5. Once your dog is consistently doing the down motion with the treat, add in the verbal cue. Say the word “down” clearly and firmly while moving the treat to the ground.
  6. Repeat step 5 until your dog lies down with only the verbal cue and no treat-guiding. However, it's best to still give the treat at the end to reward the behavior.

Training Tips

  • Hold short training sessions throughout the day in various locations, both indoor and outdoors. You want to train for 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day. Try to end the sessions positively. If needed, find another cue that your dog knows (like sit) and end with that, followed by a treat.
  • If your dog does not lie down on his own after a few tries, avoid pushing him down into position. Dogs generally do not learn this way. In addition, do not yell at him or punish him. Instead, consider trying more valuable treats, like fresh meat. Try to be patient.
  • If you are still having trouble getting your dog to lie down with treats, you can try marking the behavior. Next time he naturally lies down, say “down,” then praise and reward him. Try this every time you catch him lying down. You'll probably need to carry treats with you if this is going to work. It's fairly easy to capture behaviors with a clicker
  • When your dog responds quickly to the down cue, try gradually adding in distractions. You should also proof the behavior by training in multiple locations and scenarios.
  • Once your dog becomes an expert at lying down, you no longer need to give a treat every time. It's a good idea to give treats occasionally to reinforce the behavior. In addition, rewarding with praise is always a good idea.