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Down

Down is useful when you need your dog to be still for an extended time, too long for Sit to be comfortable. Down is great for when guests first arrive, while you chat with someone on a walk, while you eat dinner, and more.

How it's Done

You know the drill by now. Work through the levels until successful. Go back a level if your dog is struggling with one.

A Down Is a Down...

What does Down look like? Your dog is laying with their full weight on the ground. It doesn't matter what position. They can be in the Sphinx pose, over on one hip, on their side, or on their back with their legs in the air. Even in competition obedience!

They are NOT in a Down if their elbows are bent but off the ground. Wait until they are fully Down to praise and treat.

Remember, laying down and getting off of something are two different things that require two different cues. Doesn't matter what cue you use for each, as long as it's the same every time.

Step-By-Step

LEVEL 1

Follow a lure into the Down position

  1. With your dog in a Sit, hold a treat to their lips and cue "Down". Say it ONE TIME only.

  2. Slowly move the treat in a straight line down between their front paws. Try to keep the treat lightly touching their lips all the way down.

  3. If your dog stands up, start over at step 1.

  4. When you reach the ground, slowly move the treat out in front of your dog staying along the ground. (You are drawing the letter "L" with the treat). 

  5. The second both elbows touch the ground, say "YES!" and feed the treat. 

Success Criteria

Your dog follows the treat into the Down position 5 times.

LEVEL 2

Follow a fake lure into the Down position

  1. Repeat Level 1 without a treat in your hand. Do the exact same motions, including touching your fingers to their lips, as if you did have a treat in your hand.

  2. The second both elbows touch the ground, say "Great Job!" and feed a treat from your treat bag.

Success Criteria

Your dog follows your empty hand into the Down position 5 times.

LEVEL 3

Follow a Hand Signal into the Down position

  1. Stand up straight and cue your dog to "Down". 

  2. Give the hand signal for Down (flat palm facing down, push your palm downward).

  3. Do not repeat the cue. Give your dog 15 seconds to lay down. 

  4. If they do not lay down within 15 seconds of hearing the cue, motion the "L" pattern with your hand to help them into the down position.

  5. The second both elbows touch the ground, say "Woo-Hoo!" and feed a treat from your treat bag.

Success Criteria

Your dog follows the Down cue within 30 seconds, with or without help with the "L" motion.

LEVEL 4

Add Duration to the Down

  1. Stand up straight and cue your dog to "Down". 

  2. Give the hand signal for Down (flat palm facing down, push your palm downward).

  3. Do not repeat the cue. Give your dog 15 seconds to lay down. 

  4. If they do not lay down within 15 seconds of hearing the cue, motion the "L" pattern with your hand to help them into the down position.

  5. Wait 3 seconds after your dog's elbows touch the ground, say "YES!" and feed a treat from your treat bag. Repeat 4 times.

  6. Wait 5 seconds before saying "YES" and feeding a treat for 4 times.

  7. Wait 7 seconds, then 9, and so on until 30 seconds.

    When you are asking for more than a few seconds, smile at your dog and tell them they are doing a good job. If you stand there silently with a blank expression, they will think they did something wrong and stand up. The more you talk to your dog (feedback) and let them know they are on the right track, the more confident they will feel about the exercise. 
     

Success Criteria

Your dog will stay in the Down position for 30 seconds.

LEVEL 5

Stay in the Down for one minute

  1. Continue following the steps from Level 4, increasing the duration (time in the Down) by 5 seconds until you reach a minute.

  2. If your dog gets up before you say "GOOD!" and treat, go back to the duration they were successful for 4 times and then increase the duration again.

    Praise and treat end the exercise, basically releasing your dog from the Down. The goal is for them to stay in the Down until you tell them they're done.

Success Criteria

Your dog will stay in the Down position for 1 minute.

LEVEL 6

Work up to a 10-minute Down

  1. Once your dog is holding the Down position for one minute, you can increase the duration by minutes instead of seconds. 

  2. Gradually ask for longer duration until you have reached 10 minutes.

Success Criteria

Your dog will stay in the Down position for 10 minutes..

LEVEL 7

Work up to a 30 minute Down

  1. Continue building duration up to 30 minutes.

Success Criteria

Your dog will stay in the Down position for 30 minutes. It is fine if they adjust positions. They do not have to remain in the same position the whole time. Down is down is down.

LEVEL 8

Real-World Uses

  1. Practice staying in a Down in real-world scenarios. Set these up like a play rehearsal before you need it. 

  2. Ask friends to help you practice by knocking on the door while you send your dog to their bed to lay Down. 

  3. Spend 10 - 15 minutes practicing it over and over. Friend goes outside and knocks on the door. You send your dog to their bed to Down while you let the friend in. 

  4. Practice Down in the park, at a cafe, at a brewery, etc. when you can fully focus on training your dog before asking them to do it "for real".
     

Success Criteria

Your dog will stay in the Down position for an extended time while other things are going on around them.

Troubleshooting

What to do if your dog will not Down

Work on this exercise when your dog is tired,
not when they are full of energy.

 

Check that the surface is comfortable.
Some dogs will not lay down on a cold, hard floor.

 

Practice with no other pets in the room.
Some dogs will not lay down on cue with other dogs around.

 

Break the steps down further.
Bring the treat straight down between their front paws. When they bend their head down to the ground, give them a treat for that several times. Then, start the bottom of the L and when they dip their elbow(s), give them a treat for that several times. Then, bring the treat out a little bit farther and give it to them for getting a little bit closer to laying Down. Continue until they are all the way Down.

 

Use furniture to help.
With your dog on a sofa, bring the treat down in the "L" pattern to the floor in front of the sofa. Your dog will have to look over the edge of the sofa for the treat, and they will end up laying down!

 

Stick with it. Do not give up. If you give up, it teaches your dog that they can ignore your cues. If they don't have to Down, they don't have to Come when called or Leave it, either.
Even if it takes an hour, do not give up until they lay down. If it does take a long time to get that first Down, give a BIG reward (5-6 treats in a row) and stop for the day. The next time will be faster, and your dog will learn that you will get your way no matter how long it takes. 

 

Even if you are frustrated, do not let your dog see it!
Some dogs get nervous when their person gets frustrated, and they will shut down.