Down

Ideas for cues: “down”, “lie down”, “pancake”

Why train down?

Down is a great cue for dogs that need to learn to relax in one place for long periods of time. It is also excellent for jumpy dogs because jumping up from a down is harder than from a sit. And lying down can be helpful for big dogs by making them less intimidating when meeting children or people nervous around dogs.

How to train it from a sit

Step 1: With your dog in a seated position, bring a treat from their nose to the floor below their nose. (Keep the treat protected in your fingers so they can’t steal it!) Be patient and keep your hand still on the floor. It might take them 30 or more seconds to lower their body. Once their belly hits the floor, say “YES!” or click and release the treat while they are still in that down position. 

Step 1.5: If your dog does not lie down and instead, stands up, cancel your trial and tuck the treat behind your back. Ask them to (or lure them into a) sit and give one treat for that. Take another treat and repeat Step 1. It might take a few reps of Steps 1 and 1.5 before they get it. If they’re really struggling, try training a sit from stand (below). 

Step 2: Once Step 1 is successful five times, let’s get rid of the food lure. With your dog in a seated position, bring your hand signal down to the floor the exact same way, but have NO food in your hand! Once your dog’s belly hits the floor, say “YES!!” or click and then feed them from the other hand in that down position. You’ll have to be quick! If they pop up before you can treat them, simply use the treat to lure them back into the down before feeding. 

Step 2.25: Let’s play with the hand signal so you don’t have a sore back. Repeat Step 2 but instead of bringing your hand signal down to the floor, bring it down and freeze at ankle-height. 

Step 2.5: Repeat Step 2.25 but instead of bringing your hand signal down to the floor, bring it down and freeze at knee-height. 

Step 2.75: Repeat Step 2.5 but instead of bringing your hand signal down to the floor, bring it down and freeze at waist-height. 

Step 3: Once Step 2 is successful five times, let’s add a cue. With your dog in a seated position, say “down”, freeze for 1-Mississippi, then show your hand signal. Once your dog’s belly hits the floor, say “YES!!” or click and then reach into your pouch and feed them in that down position. 

Step 3.5: After five successful repetitions of Step 3, say “down”, freeze for 2-Mississippi, then bring your hand signal down to the floor. Once your dog’s belly hits the floor, say “YES!!” or click and then reach into your pouch and feed them in that down position. A few successful repetitions later, freeze for 3-Mississippi before bringing out the hand signal, and so on…until your dog jumps your prompt and lies down when you say “down”. Reward that one really well and then move on to Step 4.

Step 4: Say “down” and wait for them to lie down. When they do, say “YES!!” or click; once your dog’s belly hits the floor, reach into your pouch and feed them in that down position. Practice 5 times and then start to practice this in other environments. You may have to start from scratch in a new environment but the steps will go a LOT faster as your dog already knows them, but not how to apply it to different environments. Alternate your use of the silent hand signal and the verbal cue without a hand signal. It’s ideal to have a dog who will respond to both independently! 

How to train it from a stand

Step 1: With your dog in a standing position, bring a treat from their nose straight down to the floor below their nose and just slightly toward their chest. (Keep the treat protected in  your fingers so they can’t steal it!) Be patient and keep your hand still on the floor. It might take them 30 or more seconds to lower their body. Once their belly hits the floor, say “YES!” or click and then release the treat while they are still in that down position. 

Step 1.5: If your dog does not lie down and instead, backs up, cancel your trial and tuck the treat behind your back. It might take a few reps of Steps 1 and 1.5 before they get it. If they’re really struggling, try training a sit from a  sit  (above). 

Once Step 1 is successful five times, let’s go up ^ and work from Step 2 onward from a standing position.

Q: What do I do if my dog won’t lie down from a sit or a stand after much practice?

A: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in from of you, together. Bend your knees just enough so that your dog could crawl under them. Lure them underneath and as soon as their belly hits the floor, say “YES!!” or click and release the food. After a few successful trials of this, do the same thing with one leg. After a few successful trials of this, work through a “down from stand” while you are seated on the floor and if that is successful, try it from a standing position yourself. Still having trouble? Let us help! 

Check out our Live Training replays from October 7th, 2020: