Become Better #5:
How to teach your dog to lie down
Here is one good reason why it is important for you to be able to let your dog lie down at your command. The key word is. Control.
Could your dog be off chasing a cat, barking at other dogs, or following closely your every move and getting in your way inside the house, when you really need to be undisturbed? Could your dog be demanding your attention when you actually need some peace and quiet? Sometimes a dog is like a shouting three year old, and so spinning around full of energy that the dog can get himself into trouble. Calming down is a pressing necessity.
A dog that will happily lie down when you ask him to will calm down, and is less likely to get himself (or his owner) into trouble.
This lesson uses methods similar to the ones you used when teaching your dog to sit. But it may take your dog a bit longer to learn to lie down on command than it did to sit on command. Lying down, after all, takes a bit more effort… and being asked to lie down when you’re not even tired seems kind of silly, even to a dog. So it may take longer, but don’t get impatient or discouraged.
As with other lessons, you need to decide what command you’ll use. Remember, consistency is key with verbal commands; one word or phrase, one meaning. If you use “Down” for this lesson, you can’t use “Down” to also mean “Get off the couch” or “Stop jumping on Aunt Mavis!” Many trainers use “lie down,” but that’s a bit too close to “get down.” To make it easier on your dog, we recommend a totally different-sounding word: “Rest.” We’ll use that word in our training lessons.
So let’s get on with the lesson.
Lesson 5: How To Teach Your Dog to Lie Down
Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.
- Load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats.
- Take your dog to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions.
- Put a treat in your hand and ask your dog to sit.
- With your dog sitting and you squatting or sitting next to him, hold your hand with the treat about an inch from his nose and slowly move your hand straight down to the ground. Important: move your hand straight down, right below your dog’s nose, being very careful not to move it away from him as this will cause him to get up and move toward it. We don’t want that. (If that happens, just start over.)
- Your dog should follow the treat down with his nose, and then lie down completely. You may need to hold the treat on the ground for a few seconds before he lies down. It may also help to tap the ground with your other hand. Be patient.
- As soon as your dog lies down, immediately give the treat and verbal praise (“Good!”)
- Walk a couple of steps away to a new location.
- Repeat Steps 3 through 7. Practice this a few times.
- Did you notice you haven’t told your dog to “Rest” yet? Just as you learned with the Sit command, do not give the verbal command until you can get him to lie down consistently by moving your treat-filled hand down to the ground. Once you’re sure he’s going to do this properly the next time you do that, say “Rest” in a calm, low voice a split second before you start moving your hand. When he lies down, immediately reward your dog with the treat and “Good!” praise.
- Repeat this process five times, saying “Rest” in a calm, low voice just before he does so and rewarding his correct response.
Not doing what you want? Here is what to do
If your dog backs up instead of lying down, try having him sit with his back to a corner, so he can’t back up.
If your dog doesn’t lie down all the way, repeat steps 3 through 7 but add this: place your other hand (the one without the treat) on his back, just behind his shoulders, and gently push him slightly sideways and downward as you move the hand with the treat down to the ground.
If your dog still doesn’t want to lie down, try moving him to a rug. (Some dogs simply don’t like lying on cold, hard surfaces.)
As with other lessons, make sure your dog is not too distracted…or nervous. He’ll be more willing to lie down if he’s calm and relaxed. If he’s nervous or full of energy, postpone your lesson until he’s settled down.
Remember to keep your tone of voice calm and low.
Remember, the instant he lies down, give the treat and praise (“Good!”).
Practice for Lesson 5
Practice this lesson several times a day. Vary the time of day and location.
Also watch your dog when you’re not practicing the lessons, and when he starts to lie down on his own, say “Rest” as he does so. Then quickly give him a treat and praise.
Coming up next week:
Become Better – Training Lesson 6: How to teach your dog not to jump on people