Knowledge and skill are built upon previous experiences. If you haven’t take a look at our previous post, Teach Your Dog to Sit, I highly recommend doing so. Half the work of teaching your dog the “Down” command/trick is done if you can get your dog to sit. After all, your dog is quite literally halfway to the down position in a sit. The “Down” or “Lie Down” movement is one of the most basic and easy dog tricks to teach, along with sit, stay, and come. Let’s get started:
Your dog should be able to complete the following after following and practicing the steps below:
- Lie “Down” on the floor, having their front elbows and belly comfortably resting on the floor.
- Able to respond to the verbal command “Down” or the physical hand motion of pointing to the floor.
Steps:Present a smelly, tasty treat to your dog to capture their undivided attention. Proceed to slowly lower your hand with the treat to the floor. Be mindful to go slow so your pup can follow his nose!
Ideally, your dog will follow the treat right to the floor. At this stage, it is imperative you only reward the dog when they’re in the proper position of having their front elbows touch the floor and their belly comfortably resting as well. As your dogs elbows and belly touch the floor, reward him/her with the treat and say the command “Down”. Make sure to provide praise after the “Down” command and the treat.
photos by Nick Saglimbeni, from 101 Dog Tricks
- Many times a dog will get stuck and refuse to move fully into the down position. Usually, this is not because they don’t want to do the trick, but because they think they’ve already done the command and should be rewarded! If your dog makes it halfway to the floor and does not fully rest their elbows or belly on the floor, begin moving the treat towards and/or away from them in such a manner to extend or bend their elbows into the down position.
credit: Nick Saglimbeni
Begin to use the hand motion for “Down.” Mimic leading your dog’s nose to the floor but from a foot way from your pup. Point your index finger to the ground and continue to use the verbal “Down” command.
Timeframe:1 week to teach the “Down” command. 2-3 weeks to add the additional “Wait” and “Release” mastery. Dogs of all ages and of any size can learn the down trick. However, it is special to note that it may take longer-legged dogs more time to drop into the down position and may be more resistant to continued practice sessions.