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How to Teach Your Dog: Down

Down is a great cue that teaches the dog to relax even in stressful situations. Combing this cue with the ‘stay’ cue provides for a great management and control tool for the owner over the dog. Teaching this cue can be a bit faster with luring rather than pure shaping – especially for a novice clicker trainer and this is what we will show here.

  1. Prepare in advance a clicker and some highly reinforcing treats.
  2. Start with the dog sitting. Lure the dog into a down by taking a treat and solely lowering it right under his/her nose. When the dog is on the ground – click and treat.
  3. Repeat numerous times while trying to reduce the amount of hand movement needed to get the dog to the down position.
  4. If the dog does not lie down: If the dog lifts his hind legs when trying to get the treat – we can use prompts: do the exercise under a chair or a table. This way, the dog has to lie down to get the treat. Work gradually into the down position. Start by clicking even the slightest head movement down, then head movement and leg movement, then both legs moving, and finally the whole body is down.
  5. Once the dog is comfortable at doing the ‘down’ with the lure, start trying to fade the lure. Just put the treat down and wait – if the dog does the behavior – click and treat generously.
  6. Now, we can add the word ‘down’ as the cue. As always, start saying the word while the behavior is occurring and gradually, say it earlier and earlier.
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