How to teach your dog to lay down
By DCSPCA Canine Lead Trainer Jodi
"Down" or "Lay Down" is an important cue for your dog to learn. In my opinion it is as important as the "sit" cue. The "Down" cue is very useful in helping your dog to relax in a hectic situation or to keep them in a "place" for a long period of time.
When your dog is in the proper down position, their chest, elbows, and rear end are in contact with the ground and ideally, they should stay there until you release them.
Set aside five to ten minutes 2-3 times per day in a distraction-free location to practice this command.
Begin by getting your dog’s attention. Show them that you have a treat in your hand. Lower yourself to your dog’s level, and ask them to go into a “Sit” first.
Hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose but don't let them get it yet. Next, slowly move the treat towards the ground, letting your dog follow it.
Try pulling the treat away a little bit if your dog is only putting their elbows down but their rear end remains in the air. Draw an “L” shape towards you by moving your hand straight to the floor and then moving your hand and index finger slowly towards your own body (just a couple of inches) as your dog follows it.
Once your dog is fully lying down say "YES" give your dog the treat followed by petting and praise.
When your dog is consistently doing the down motion with the treat, add in the verbal cue. Say the word “Down” clearly and firmly while moving the treat to the ground. Only say the word "Down" once. If we repeatedly say "Down, Down, Down," you will dilute the cue.
Repeat this until your dog lies down with only the verbal cue and no treat-guiding. Continue to reward with a treat after your dog lies down.
Have your sessions in various locations, including both indoor and outdoor areas. Always try to end the sessions on a positive note.
When your dog responds quickly to the down cue, try to gradually add in distractions. Also, try training in multiple locations and scenarios.
Once your dog becomes an expert at lying down, you no longer need to give a treat every time. It's a good idea to give treats occasionally to reinforce the behavior. In addition, rewarding your dog with praise is always a good idea. After all, your dog loves to please you, the treats are just a bonus.