Trust me when I say there is nothing worse than a wiggly, muddy puppy jumping on you and ruining your new outfit just as you’re about to walk out the door. OR bringing home a date only to have your pup jump up on his lap, successfully stealing all of the love. ORRRR you’re in the dog park and seriously just need your dog to chill out for a minute while you put on your gloves. When it comes to teaching your dog a new trick, the selection is endless, but I can tell you right now that teaching your dog a solid “down” will be life-changing for your relationship. You’ll finally have a happy place for your dog to go to when you need him to be calm for a minute…or 15…
Train Your Dog Successfully Using “Luring”
You may have heard of the term “luring” in dog training. If you haven’t, don’t sweat it, I’m going to explain it now and it will completely change the way you teach your dog new tricks.
Luring uses a food reward to guide your dog into the desired position. Once your dog is in that position, you will then reward him, and voila! Your dog is much more likely to repeat that position in the future in the hopes of getting food treats.
We use luring when teaching a dog to lie down because it is a quick and easy way to show them exactly what it is that we want them to do. It’s fun for the human, and fun for the dog, and teaching any new trick should always be a fun and positive process for all involved.
A 5 Step Process to Training a “Down” on Hand Signal
You Will Need:
An irresistible reward
A treat pouch (for holding the treats)
You will need to use an irresistible reward in order to lure your dog into the “down” position. This trick works particularly well with food rewards. The best treats to use for training your dog are small, soft and smell tasty.
NOTE: if your dog doesn’t seem to be interested in the activity, your reward may not be high enough, and you’ll need to switch to more appealing treats.
Step 1: Lure to the Ground Using Food
Start with your dog in a sit position. Hold one of the treats up to your dogs nose to sniff. Slowly move your hand with the treat down towards the ground. Your dog’s nose should follow the treat, which will make his body move into a “down” position. When your dogs belly touches the ground, give your dog the food as a reward for completing the behaviour.
Repeat this many times until your dog is smoothly and consistently following your hand downwards.
NOTE: If your dog doesn’t follow the treat to the ground you may be moving your hand too quickly. Slow down the movement so that he can follow along.
Step 2: Remove the Food Lure
Once your dog is successfully following your hand, you will remove the food from that hand. Repeat the movement in the same way that you were doing in step one, but in this step you will have the food treat behind your back, not in your hand. Be sure to still reward your dog with the treat after he completes the movement to show him that he did the correct behaviour.
NOTE: When rewarding your dog, make sure that you’re giving him the treat on the ground instead of waiting for him to sit up before receiving the treat. This will ensure that your dog will stay down in the future instead of immediately popping up with the expectation of getting a treat.
Repeat this many times until your dog is successfully moving into a “down” every time you ask.
Step 3: Add a Voice Command
Now is the time for you to begin adding a word into the mix. Continue the same movement of step 2, but this time say “down” before moving your hand to the ground.
NOTE: Be sure to say the word before moving your hand. If you say the word and move your hand at the same time, your dog will ignore the word and just follow the food.
Step 4: Remain Upright
Next, do not move your hand all the way down to the ground, but instead, allow your dog to move into a “down” while your hand is one inch off of the ground. Each time you complete the exercise you will move your hand higher up, until you are standing erect and asking your dog for a down.
NOTE: Your dog may be a little confused by this. Give him a moment to think about it before helping him out.
Step 5: The Hand Signal
The proper hand signal for a “down” is to place your hand horizontal to the ground with your palm facing down. Of course you can use whatever hand signal that works best for you, as long as you are consistent with it. This is the final step, so do not incorporate the hand signal in until your dog has a very strong “down” with a verbal command. Speak your verbal command for “down” and then give the new hand signal. Your dog will very quickly learn that the two are interchangeable.
NOTE: With any of these steps, if your dog does not seem to be comprehending, you may just be moving too fast. Try taking a step backwards and work from there.
Some Breeds of Dogs Struggle With a “Down”
There are some dogs that seem to have a difficult time comfortably being in a down, and this is due to the shape of their bodies. It will often take French Bulldogs and Greyhounds longer to learn a “down” than other dogs, and many will not ever feel comfortable doing so. This isn’t because they are particularly stubborn, or less-intelligent than other dogs, but it is simply because of the shape of their chests. For these dogs, a down in what we call a “sphinx pose” just isn’t comfortable for them, which means it can take them longer to learn the trick.
Dog training of any kind requires lots of patience. If your dog seems to be taking longer than expected to learn a “down”, don’t worry, just continue working and your dog will pick up on it. You want to end every training session on a positive note, with lots of encouragement, so that your dog is excited to work again in the future.
Have fun with your dog, and good luck with this trick! Let me know how it goes!