Teaching your dog to lie down is one of the classic obedience commands. Being able to get your dog to settle and lie down on cue is helpful both at home and while outside. I’ll show you how to teach your dog to lie down with both luring or capturing methods.
If you prefer video tutorials, you can watch this on Youtube here
Make sure your dog knows how to sit first!
In this post we’ll cover:
- Two methods of teaching your dog to lie down: Lure or capture training
- Tips for training your dog to lie down
- Progressing the difficulty
How to teach your dog to lie down using the lure method:
Lure training is when you use a treat to guide your dog into a position. Think of the treat as a magnet to their nose; it guides them into the position we want! Lure training is often way faster, but it does not work the dogs brain as much. Also, if the lure isn’t faded out quickly your dog may only offer the behaviour with a treat in front of their nose. Get rid of the lure as soon as you can!
Using luring to teach your dog to lie down:
- Get your dogs attention. Start with your sitting in front of you while you kneel. Hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger. Hold the treat right in front of your dogs nose until they notice it.
- Silently lure them into a down. Wait for your dog to notice they treat. Once they have, slowly bring the treat straight down from their nose to the floor between their paws. Your dogs head should follow the treat. Move the treat along the floor away from your dog (think of an L shape). Your dog should lay down as they follow it.
- Let your dog know you liked what they did! As soon as your dog is laying down say “Yes!” and give them the treat. Make sure they’re still lying down when they get the treat!
- Repeat. Get your dog sit in front of you again by backing up a couple feet. Repeat steps 1-3.
- Add the cue “down”. When you would bet there’s a good chance your dog will follow the lure into a down, start saying “down” just as you move the treat to the floor. They will associate the command with the action (and want to repeat it because they get treats!). Repeat a few times while rewarding from your opposite hand (your dog no longer gets the lure).
- Stop using the lure. Luring shows your dog what you wanted them to do, but you want to phase out the lure quite quickly! You want your dog to lie down for a verbal cue or hand signal rather than looking to see what you’re offering first. It’s time to transition away from the lure! Use your empty hand to motion your dog into a down while saying “down!”. As soon as they lie down say “Yes!” and give them a treat.
- Try with the verbal command only. When your dog is successful ~ 80% of the time, try just saying the verbal command “Down” without any hand motions.
How to teach your dog to lie down using capturing:
Capturing is when you teach your dog to perform a natural behaviour on cue! You wait for your dog to voluntarily perform the behaviour without prompting, then you mark & reward it. When you consistently reward something your dog will start offering it more frequently (what gets rewarded gets repeated). Once your dog starts offering the behaviour rapidly you add a verbal cue to it. Capture training is like puzzle solving for a dog: it’s a lot of fun and works their brain!
Using capturing to teach your dog to lie down:
- Get ready & wait. Have treats ready, then just watch your dog.
- Mark the moment your dog lies. When your dog naturally lies down, say “Yes!” and give them a treat. Your dog will have no idea what you’re talking about, but they’ll enjoy being rewarded.
- Repeat. Continue to watch your dog. Repeat steps 1-2.
- Add the “down” cue. The lightbulb should go off with your dog realizing it’s the lying down getting them treats. You’ll know when it has because your dog will start lying down and looking at you expectantly for their treat. Once that happens, start adding the word “down” as they’re mid-motion of lying down. Reward as soon as they complete the down.
- Ask your dog to lie down. Slowly progress to being able to ask for a down BEFORE they’re naturally doing it. Reward.
Tips for teaching your dog to lie down:
Teaching your dog to lie down is usually more difficult than teaching them to sit. It’s particularly harder for puppies or high energy dogs. If you’re struggling, try a few of these ideas:
- As you’re progressing past lure training, make sure you only say the command “down” once. If your dog is confused, go back to using the lure to guide them. You don’t want to have ask your dog to lie down 6x before they finally do!
- Take your dog for a walk before training them and tire them out a bit. A tired dog is more likely to lie down.
- Do not use the leash or push on your dog to make them lie down. As tempting as it may be to force them into position to show them what you want, resist! I suggest force-free training methods only. You want your dog to voluntarily follow obedience cues, otherwise they could have a negative association with the training.
- Placement of rewards is important. Make sure you offer the treat while your dog is still lying down! If they pop into a sit the second you say “Yes!” and they’re given a treat then, you’re rewarding the release/sit instead of the down. Be clear with your dog about what you’re asking for!
- If you’re really struggling to teach your dog or puppy to lie down try using your legs as a “bridge”. Make a “bridge” with your legs. Bring a treat to your dogs nose in front of you and lure them under your legs. They’ll naturally have to lie down to reach the treat. Reward as soon as they’re lying down, then repeat.
Progressing the difficulty:
Dogs are very contextual animals. Your dog may have learned what down means when asked to do it in the living room, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to follow your cue when more distractions are present. Help them practice!
Slowly increase the difficulty of where you ask your dog to lie down.
Ask for a down randomly on walks, before leaving the house, prior to meals, or while you’re at the pet store. If your dog doesn’t lie down when asked recognize that the distractions are likely too high. Take a step back in difficulty instead! Also, make sure you’re never asking your dog to lie down on a surface that would be uncomfortable or painful for them.
Happy training 🙂
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