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How to teach your dog to lie down

Black and brown dog lying down advice
© Pixabay

Lying down is one of the hardest tasks for a pet to learn. But how best to teach your dog to lie down to your command so that he does it on cue every time

By Dawn Parrish


Does your dog understand your command to lie down? It’s probably one of the most difficult commands to teach your dog, however it’s very useful. The “down” or “lie down” command can be used in public locations like cafes, where your dog will be much more welcome if he is under control. Being able to teach your dog to lay down can also be quite beneficial if you need to keep him in one place for a period of time. Likewise, it can be a valuable command if your dog is anxious in any busy situation. Similarly, it’s also one of the first requirements to other dog tricks, like roll over or playing dead.

What is the “down” position?

trick to lie down for dogs The required "down" position for your dog ©Pixabay

First of all, when your pooch is lying down his chest should be in contact with the floor. Equally, his hocks and elbows should also be touching the ground. Because your dog is responsive to your command, he should stay in this position until you direct him to move. Most canine trainers use the word “okay” to release the dog from this instruction. It only takes a short amount of practice for your dog to achieve this “down” cue.

How to teach your dog to lie down

Teaching your pet this command is going to take an amount of positive reinforcement. Several, delicious doggy treats should also help the situation. Take your dog to a location with no other distractions. If you intend to use the clicker method of training, have this to hand.

  1. Make sure you have your pet’s full attention. Now let him see the treat in your hand.
  2. Grasp the treat and hold it up to your pup’s nose
  3. Now, slowly move your hand containing the treat down towards the floor
  4. Immediately your dog places his hocks and elbows onto the floor, praise and pet your dog and give him the treat.
  5. Repeat this action several times until he grasps the gist of the downward motion and the treat reward. Now it’s time to include the verbal command “down” whilst bringing the treat down to the floor.
  6. Continue to reiterate the previous step 5 until your dog will lie down without any comment or treat. Finally, reward his amazing behaviour at the end of the routine.

Helpful Training Tips to teach your dog to lay down

  1. Carry out several, brief training sessions during the day rather than one long, continuous period. Train both outdoors and inside for variation so your dog doesn’t become easily bored. Ensure that you end each of the training stints on a positive note.
  2. If you find that your dog still won’t lie down by himself, even after a few attempts, don’t use any force. This won’t help the situation. Certainly, don’t shout at him or use punishment. In this situation it is best to be patient. Maybe try some other tasty treat, such as small chunks of meat.
  3. Once your dog has mastered the “down” command, you probably don’t need to reward him every time with a treat. Certainly, giving praise each time he succeeds is advised, with occasional treats for his positive behaviour.

Final tips to teach the “down” position

Teaching your dog to lie down is usually a whole lot easier if your pooch can first carry out the “sit” command. However, if your pet still isn’t happy to stay down, try one of these techniques:

Use a raised platform – this is rather devious but usually works. Place your dog on a raised object such as a bed, sofa or even the stairs. Hold a treat in your hand and lure the dog forwards lower than the raised platform. The dog will have no alternative but to lay down if he wants to get the treat. Now repeat and reward several times to enforce the command.

Use the “under the leg” movement – this is an ideal routine especially for a smaller breed dog. You sit on the ground and raise one knee, creating a triangle space underneath. Now hold out the treat to lure the dog under your knee. He will have no alternative but to lie down to go on his belly under the space. Gradually lower your knee to reduce the space. Give a treat and praise to show your dog he’s doing well.

Remember that a dog lying on the ground is a submissive stance for any dog. If your canine is rather fearful or anxious, he could assume that he is more of a target when laying down. The most passive and subservient position a dog can take is on his back and this isn’t a much different posture to laying down on his tummy. Above all, don’t worry if it takes you a while to teach your dog to lie down successfully to your command. Be patient and allow the dog time to be comfortable and to trust the state of affairs.