Learning how to teach your dog to lay down is a valuable pet ownership skill. The “down” position can help you keep a hyper dog under control or help a timid dog stay calm. It can also help your dog stay safe when you’re out in public. You can begin working on it when your dog knows how to sit on command. Being consistent and remaining calm while training your dog will encourage him to learn faster.
To teach your dog to lay down, you'll need
- Use the “sit” command. Once your dog is sitting, say the word “down” and hold a treat in front of his nose. Hold it close enough for him to smell, but make sure he can’t snatch it out of your hand. Move the treat down towards the floor slowly.
- Lure your dog to the floor. When the treat is on the floor, say “down” and move it away from your dog and towards you in a straight line. Your dog should lower his body to the floor as he follows the treat. When he’s in the “down” position, give him the treat and praise him. Practice this technique several times until he starts moving towards the floor as soon as you give the verbal command.
- Teach your dog a hand signal. Keep treats nearby but not in your hand. Say “down” and hold your empty hand palm down in front of your dog and slowly lower it to the floor. By this time, your dog should know what to do. When he’s laying down on the floor, hand him a treat and praise him. The hand signal replaces the need to hold a treat to lure him to the floor. Repeat this technique several times.
- Phase out food rewards. Begin rewarding your dog randomly when he lays down instead of giving him a treat each time. Your dog should learn to obey the verbal command or hand signal without expecting a treat. Once he knows how to lay down on command, you can use just the verbal command, just the hand signal or continue to use both.
Tips: Work on getting your dog to lay down for longer periods of time. If he gets up after a second or two, have him lay down again instead of rewarding him. When he stays down for a few seconds or more, reward him. Gradually increase the amount of time he stays down by withholding his reward longer. Never drag your dog into a down position by his collar. Doing so can frighten him and lead to aggressive behavior.