Teach a Dog to Lie Down – 5 Alternate Methods for All Dogs

Teaching a dog to lay down is one of those
things that can sometimes be a struggle for them to learn. But today, I'm going to show
you five different ways to come at the problem so you can make it happen. Ian here with Simpawtico
Dog Training, and before we get into lay down strategies, please make sure you are subscribed
so you never miss any of our videos. Also, if you're new here please give us a thumbs
up and check out our other videos for training tips, product reviews, and more. Now, teaching
a dog to lay down is one of those basic behaviors we strive to teach every dog in the first
few weeks that we have them. It’s one of the three basic positions along with Sit and
Stand. And it's a wonderful way to settle a dog down or to have them Stay for an extended
period. Laying down is a little special, though. Most dogs will pick it up right away with
a basic lure-reward-training routine. But other dogs can struggle with the concept.
Certain breeds such as Boston Terriers and Yorkies for example seem to generally just
be totally baffled with down. So, to help you out here are five strategies to teach
down to your dog: STRATEGY #1: LURE REWARD TRAINING. This is
the most straightforward method, and it's the first one you should try. All lure-reward
trained behaviors follow the same 1234 formula: Request, Lure, Response, and Reward. In this
case, that looks like this: Say "Down.” Use a food reward to lure the dog's nose down
between the front paws. The dog should collapse into a laying position. Immediately praise
and reward the dog. Most commonly this is started from a sit position since half the
dog is already in the right place. That's ok to begin with, but as soon as you can get
ten in a row, start trying it from the standing position. Your dog should be able to lay down
from either sitting or standing without any unnecessary steps. Although lure reward training
is the first thing you should try, sometimes it takes a little bit more to crack this nut.
That brings us to…STRATEGY #2: BUILDING from a BOW. This is lure reward training too,
but we're taking a different approach on the luring bit. Stand or kneel to the side of
your dog and, using the food lure, move in between the front paws at an oblique, 45º
angle. The point is to get them to go into the same position as a play bow. Once you’re
getting the bow consistently start dialing it in. Build repetitions. Then, start pausing
between the front feet. It won't take long for the bottom to just plop down. Praise BIG
when you get it. Then build more repetitions on the full down.
On a side note: you could make this "take a bow" and then shape it to be "Down," and
still have both of them available as behaviors. STRATEGY #3: SHAPING from the NECK. Sometimes,
a dog won’t be able to figure out what the expectation is and will give up quickly. If
luring doesn’t seem to work to get the dog all the way down, break the behavior down
into smaller pieces. Perform the luring action as before but reward initially for just lowering
the head down to get it. As consistency builds ask your dog to go further and further with
it until they go all the way down. This is a time consuming method that can take several
days, but I've done it before with stubborn dogs. When they finally lay down, boy you’d
better make a big fuss about it! STRATEGY #4: ALL or NONE REWARD TRAINING (aka the “BATHROOM
DOWN”). This is the easiest of all the methods because you don’t really have to do much.
Get about 20 or so food rewards and something to read. Pick a small room such as a bathroom
or even a walk-in closet and close yourself inside with your dog. Have a seat and start
reading. Pay no mind to your dog, just do your own thing. Your dog will eventually get
bored with sniffing the corners and lay down. Immediately praise this behavior, and toss
a treat so that the dog has to get up to get it, thus setting them up to do it again. As
the dog catches on and starts offering the behavior to get a reward, it will be a simple
thing to transition over to putting the behavior on request (or what we call “putting it
on stimulus control”). Simply say "Down" right before they do it, and reward them.
Piece of cake. Be aware that once you leave the space you've done this in your dog may
need a bit of coaxing to realize this works everywhere. At this point simple lure reward
training should work now, to get over the hump. STRATEGY #5: SHAPING by BRIDGING. This
is the last resort because it’s the most difficult to do and the most time consuming.
Essentially you will use a food reward to lure your dog to crawl under a bridge. This
could be a stool, your leg or bent knee, an end table…it just depends on the size of
your dog. Make sure that you mark the behavior as soon as the elbows and belly touch the
floor. Gradually shape this behavior by removing the bridge little bits at a time. Raise your
leg or knee higher, or remove the stool or chair. Incidentally this is how I taught down
to my Boston Terrier, Bobo. Once he got the idea, it was easy to get rid of the bridge
and use lure reward training to improving his performance. Now he's so good he's perfectly
prompt, precise, and polite. If you're struggling with Down, here are some other aspects you
should consider: If you're having trouble, check the floor surface. Some surfaces weird
a dog out and they resist laying down on it. Maybe it's too slippery, or uncomfortable,
or just plain unfamiliar. Try a different place, or have the dog try it on a blanket,
a towel, or a bath mat. Once they get the idea, transition to other surfaces with lots
of practice, and praise. Also, think of ways you can set yourself up for success. For example
you could practice down after a long walk or after play time. These are instances when
the dog is more inclined to lie down anyways to rest. Don't forget to start phasing out
the food lure as soon as possible. Once you've got lay down pretty well dialed in, get that
food lure out of your hand and into your pocket. Remember: a lure is given to cause a behavior.
Once the behavior is happening reliably we don't need it. A reward, then, comes after
the behavior like magic. It's not guaranteed or promised. In contrast, a bribe is used
before the behavior to coerce them to perform. This is not how it's done for the longterm.
It's all about repetition, clear goals, and consistency. FINALLY: As always, be patient,
and be encouraging as they figure it out. Remember teaching your dog things is a team
sport. You're both working together. You'd cheer your kid on if they made a goal in soccer.
Do the same for your dog when they hit a new accomplishment. Show enthusiasm and encouragement.
You can do a lot, when you do it together! So, good luck nailing this if your dog is
having some trouble. Relax, and don’t give up. It will get there. Questions for you:
Which one of these approaches stood out to you the most? What tips do YOU have? And what
are some other training conundrums you’d like me to help you with? Let’s connect
in the comments below. Please thumbs up this video if you learned something useful and
as always, keep learning, keep practicing, and I'll see you soon. Thanks for watching.

22 thoughts on “Teach a Dog to Lie Down – 5 Alternate Methods for All Dogs”

  1. My dog will almost lurch forward and into the down position and immediately jump back up. How do I get him to stay down?

  2. Hey Ian. I’m using the first method – but my dog only lies down when I have the treat in my hand. I am practicing a few times each day – for 2 months now 🤔
    Perhaps I said the command at wrong time (I say it while luring her down instead of first luring her down and say it when her elbows touch the ground)?
    Thanks so much for your videos. Enjoy them very much an I learn a lot.

  3. i understand these but it is hard when my dog is so small and when i put my hand down all the way she can still reach it while standing

    update: i am using the second method and it is working very well!!

    (also to anyone questioning i have a dachshund)

  4. Really helpful! I was attempting to teach my dog down doing the first method for 2 days and it was not working. He would just put his head down but not the rest of his body and then give up. After you mentioned trying out different surfaces, I moved our training from the carpet area to the rug area where he tends to lie down more readily. He got it on the first try!!

  5. I just came across your videos by accident and I'm so glad I did. (everything happens for a reason). I have a Yorkie/poodle/Shih Tzu mix. She's about 10 pounds. We got her from a friend and decided to keep her with no knowledge on training. We've had her for a year now and behaviours are slowly getting better except for when we leave the house, and barking.
    I've given her treats in her pen when we leave, but it's not allowing her to be comfortable with us leaving.
    But the bigger issue is barking.
    She barks at EVERYTHING.
    Someone comes out of their house, she barks. A squirrel runs by, she barks.
    Another dog walks on, she barks. A leaf in the wind blowing…. You got it, she barks.
    How on earth do I get her to stop barking?!
    Her barking has actually gotten us into some hot water from the city and a neighbour complaining. We got her a collar that vibrates when she barks but it just doesn't teach her anything.

  6. Any tried #4 ? I wanna try with my male adult rednose pitbull because he stubborn and forgot down but remembers everything else. Lol thank you!

  7. Thanks for the help. My little doggo is struggling to grasp 'down' but I think the bathroom trick might just work!

  8. I have a Boston terrier bulldog mix he is very smart and can learn a new trick almost instantly lay down is a weak point of his so we have to work extra hard with him these really helped especially the bathroom reading one

  9. My doggo is dumb. I managed to teach her to sit as a puppy but shes absolutely dumb and stubborn nowadays. None of your trianing vids worked not even a little.

  10. Please help. My 3month old puppy knows the down command, but will only do it on textured surfaces(carpet, rug,bet,couch…etc) and not hard surface( tile,wood flooring..etc.) What can I do?

  11. I too have tried getting my BT to obey commands like "down" She got "sit" very easily but anything else is play time or sleep time.

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