The down command, especially when combined with stay, is a wonderful obedience exercise that will help your dog learn self-control. This helps prevent annoying behaviors such as begging during meals or mobbing your guests. Plus, as you’ll read in trick training posts, “down” is an integral part of several tricks, including roll over, play dead, and crawl.
For this exercise, the word “down” is used to mean lie down on the ground or floor and be still. If you use the word “down” to tell your dog to get off of the furniture or to stop jumping on you, you’ll need to use a different word for this exercise. Dogs need one definition per vocabulary word, otherwise life gets confusing.
Using Treats to Teach “Down”
The first technique uses a treat, so chose one you know your dog likes a lot.
1. Ask your dog to sit
2. Praise them and let them sniff the treat when they sit
3. As they’re sniffing, move the treat from his nose to his toes
4. As they move their head to follow the treat, say, “Down”
5. When their elbows touch the ground, praise them and give them the treat
When you’re ready for them to get up, pat them on the shoulder and say, “Okay,” or “Up.”
Teaching “Down” Without Treats
The second technique is for dogs who aren’t food motivated or who don’t seem interested in treats.
1. Ask your dog to sit by your side so you’re both facing the same direction
2. Praise them when they do
3. Reach over them and gently put your hands on each of their legs
4. Scoop their legs forward to help them lie down
5. Praise them
No matter the technique you use, repeat it a few times and then take a break. Come back later and repeat it again. Keep training sessions short and sweet and remember to praise your dog consistently.