How to Teach Your Dog to Lay Down

One of our friends recently got a puppy. She’s had him for a little over two weeks, and she’s already working on sit and shake with him. She asked us for tips on teaching him to lay down, so we thought we’d reply in a post using pics and a video of us (and this would have been one loooong text!) =)
You can teach your dog to lay down from a sit or a stand-though make sure to teach both and realize that they are separate motions. Dogs learn behaviors by associating what their body is doing with the word you choose to use. They are very good kinetic learners. We will show you how to teach your dog down from both positions.

Things you will need for your training session:
-yummy treats or food that is in small pieces so it’s easy to dispense and the dog can eat it quickly
-a clicker is optional-you can use the word “yes” as a marker word too
-your eager and bright pupil
-a patient mindset and positive attitude
(One of my favorite quotes that applies to animal training is this:
“If you act like you have all day, it will only take you five minutes;
but act like you only have five minutes, and it will take you all day”
~Monty Roberts)
Frustration and impatience makes training no fun and you’d be better off not even taking the time to do anything.

How to teach a Down from a Sit:
Begin with your dog in a sit
Place the treat in front of the dog’s chest and begin luring the dog toward the floor by slowly moving it straight down
The dog will begin to lay down by folding its elbows bit by bit

The moment the dog is fully on the floor, mark the behavior with the word “Yes!” and give the dog a treat!

To increase the length of a down, treat before the dog pops back up or the dog will learn to pop back up for a treat. Make sure not to have too many criterion during a training session (i.e. if you are working on duration, do not add distractions or distance)

How to teach a Down from a Stand:
Start with your dog in a stand
Place the treat in front of the dog’s nose and move it slightly forward and toward the floor

The dog may bend from the elbows or their back legs-it varies with the dog

As soon as the dog is in the position, mark the behavior with the word “Yes!” and give a treat

Eventually, you will be adding the cue word “Down” or another word of your choice before you lure the behavior and eventually you will be able to say the word without luring the behavior. =) However, during the initial beginning sessions, do not add the cue word-just focus on getting the behavior and later you can add the cue word.

Now make sure to practice in all kinds of locations! You can practice in different rooms of the house and in pet stores and dog friendly stores or when you’re out getting coffee with your pup. Make sure to practice everywhere to proof the behavior so your dog can do it anywhere in increasingly difficult environments.

The finished behavior =)

Use the word “Down,” but make sure that is only used to mean lay down. Do NOT use the word when teaching your dog not to jump on you or guests. For that, instead use the word “Off.” It is very confusing to the dog if you use the word for getting down from the bed, or down from the counter, or the couch, or to lay down. How are they supposed to know which one you are talking about? You could use the word “apple” for the behavior of laying down, or “orange” for not jumping on someone or something. However, pick one cue word for one behavior and be consistent when using it.

If your dog gets up from a sit, you are luring them forward. Try to keep the treat closer to the dog, but not so close that they step back to compensate.

If you would like to teach a dog to bow, we’d recommend teaching a bow first and then a down from a standing position. We’ve found personally it was harder (though certainly not impossible) to teach a bow later after teaching down.

Any questions? Leave us a comment below! Let us know how well this works for you and your pup.

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