The down command is a good management tool that helps keep dogs out of trouble and out from underfoot. This behavior is often difficult for many dogs to learn because it’s a submissive posture. A shy or fearful dog might have more trouble learning or performing a down, so go slowly while teaching this skill. Use a happy voice, lots of praise, and good treats while training.
How to Teach Down
To teach the down:
- Hold a very tasty treat in your closed hand and place it at your dog’s muzzle.
- When he notices the scent of the treat, move your hand toward the floor. He should follow the hand that hides the treat.
- While the dog’s head follows your hand, move your hand along the floor in front of him. His body will follow his head, and once he stretches out into a down, open your hand to let him eat the treat.
- Repeat multiple times daily and pair the behavior with the word “down.”
- If your dog lunges toward your hand, say “Nope” and take your hand away before he can get to the treat. If he tries to sit up, break away and start again. Never push him into a down.
Clever dog that he is, your dog will try everything to get to the treat. He’s showing effort and should not be punished for thinking. Encourage every little bit of progress until he understands the command. After a successful attempt, always release your dog from the down and run off to play with him.