Teach Down to your dog
If you haven't read the Factoid on "Sit" please do so first.
Down:Teaches your dog to lie in a prone position on a hip, on the floor.
- Put them in a sit, (you can use your hand signal: palm facing up, like tossing a softball). Treat squeezed between your thumb and forefinger again like we did for "sit"; now the palm is facing the floor, like the letter F in ASL sign language like we did for "sit".
- When they sit, quickly turn your hand over so your palm faces down, this is the down hand signal, lure them from their nose straight down to the floor and pull the treat towards you while still staying right at their nos--go slow; if you go to fast they will loose interest,--tell them “yes” or Click and treat them if they go to a prone position on a hip, on the floor, then praise them and “release“ (RW) them. Get them use to the release word.
- Try to get them to lay on their favorite hip when they go down; you can lure them from a sphinx-type down by moving your hand towards their elbow going towards their ribcage, after you get them to the floor. Putting them into a “relaxed down” will help keep them there so they don’t “pop” up so easily and quickly.
- If their butt comes up off the floor tell them “uh-uh” (NWM), and try again. You may need to take the treat straight down from their nose to the floor then move it towards their right or left leg, depending on how your dog is sitting, and which hip is their favorite. Keep doing this until they go down in a prone position on a hip reliably every time you motion them with your hand (palm facing down).
- When they do so, then you can add the word “down” (do not say "down" for sphinx position, only for ON A HIP), as they are in the act of going into the prone position.
Tips if you're having difficulties getting them to lay down::
Use a higher value treat (hot dogs, chicken, cheese)
Some dogs have difficulty doing this; it is a submissive position and it puts them in a vulnerable state. Some dogs do not like laying on a cold hard floor and a mat or towel might change their mind and you’ll be able to get them down.
Some dogs you can catch the behavior at home; have treats available to you all over your home, watch your dog and when they start to lay down, quietly get treat and as they move into position say "down" mark it (yes or click) and treat then praise, good boy/girl.
You can also take them into a bathroom and wait for them to get bored and when they lay down, mark it (yes or click) treat and praise, and release.
You can also see if using your leg like a tunnel will get them to crawl under to get the treat, this will force them to have to get down to do this, say "down" mark it, treat it, when they crawl under your leg.
If you have a short-legged dog with a long nose and or neck, it may be hard to lure the treat to the floor, use a table or ottoman and put them on it, this will give you the ability to lure the treat past the edge and they may lay down, to nibble at it. Don't let them fall off the edge.
You can give them 2-3 treats (called a jackpot) for finally laying down when you're working with them; this makes them want to lay down more often because they get more treats.
Always remember use your marker: Yes or click, treat, praise and use your RW (release word), in that order.
Practice in a non-distracting location first and in different rooms of your home. Add distractions slowly.
3-4 weeks later: Fade the lure, meaning they shouldn't smell your treat all the way to the floor; don't use the treat to lure anymore; if they get up or move towards your hand with the treat, tell them uh-uh, and move your hand behind your back so they can't have access to it, and tell them to "down" again. Don’t treat them for down every single time once they know it, treat randomly, but always praise.
You should be able to stand upright and just hand signal them to down and say your word. You may have to take small steps upward gradually. Ask for "down", and every third prompt you give come up at least an inch from where you last were. Dogs see you with your hand signal right at their face when luring them to do the down, so when you stand up and try to motion them to do "down" it looks different to them. Don't keep telling them down over and over, try not to repeat your cues over, your cues over, your cues over . . . see how annoying that is? Give them a few seconds to figure it out, let them think. If they get up, correct with Uh-Uh and tell them to sit then say "down" with hand signal again. Try not to go too fast, do it gradually; they will figure it out, have patience.