3-step Guide - How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down

3-step Guide - How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down

Author WDF Staff


Training is something that should be a large part of your dog’s life. All dogs require training; it doesn’t matter how small, big, lazy, or friendly they are. Training is the best way to ensure your dog’s development in a well-behaved and balanced dog.

One of the easiest commands to teach your dog is to lie down. “Lie down” or “Down” is a helpful command that might be very handy when you need to make your dog calm down and keep them out of trouble. However, you should teach your dog the “Sit” command first. You can check out how to do it here - Commands all dogs should know. Check out this helpful and proven step-by-step guide for teaching any dog to lie down.

Luring behavior

Before we start going over every step teaching the dog to lie down requires, we need to understand what “luring” means. If you successfully taught your dog to sit, you are probably aware of what luring means, and you know how it works. Most dog owners figure it out, but they are not sure about the exact terminology dog trainers, and breeders use. Here is what it means;

Luring refers to using something your dog thinks is of high value. Things like treats, human food, or toys can be a lure for your dog. Dog trainers use the lure technique to “lure” behavior out of a dog. For example, if you want your dog to spin, you will hold a treat in front of them and make a circular motion your dog will follow. This is exactly what owners should use to teach a dog to lie down.

These steps are proven to work, and we can tell you that from our personal experience. Here are the steps we used for teaching our dogs to lie down. What you’ll need for this training are a clicker and dog training treats.

1. Luring the lying position

The first thing you need to do is to lure the dog into a lying position. The starting point is the sitting position. After you get your dog to sit, show them the treat in your hand and hold it close to their nose. The next thing you should do is to start lowering the treat between your puppy’s front feet. Make sure the puppy is following the treat with their eyes. If they get too excited, stop, and try again.

pug laying down

If you notice your puppy following the treat with their eyes, you should reach the ground between their feet. After your hand touched the ground, you should start moving the hand with the treat away from your puppy. That should cause them to follow the treat and lie down. As soon as their belly touches the ground, you click the clicker and reward your puppy for a successful first step.

Some puppies will need more time because they are excitable, and it can be challenging to get them calm enough to get them to lie down. Make sure you are patient through every step and give your puppy every chance to succeed.

Here is another fun trick you can teach your dog - How to teach a dog to shake.

2. Bait and switch

It is crucial you repeat the first step as many times as your puppy needs. You should move to the second step only when your puppy has successfully repeated the first step 90% of the time. Teaching your dog to lie down is not that difficult if you have enough patience and have a calm approach to training.

The second step of teaching a puppy to lie down is to switch the treat for the hand signal ONLY. By now, your puppy is following your hand because they are expecting to find a treat in that hand. That should only be a starting point. In the second step, you will remove the treat from that hand and make your puppy lie down and follow your empty hand. When the puppy follows your empty hand, praise them and make sure you click the clicker and reward them from your other hand. If your puppy does that successfully most of the time, you have managed to teach your puppy to lie down by following a hand signal. That also means you and your puppy are ready for the third step.

Puppies are often very enthusiastic about everyone, and one of the things they love doing is jumping on people. Here is how to settle that problem - Teach your dog to stop jumping on people.

3. Implementing the command

The exact command you use can be whatever you want it to be. Most dog owners decide to go with “Down,” but there is no rule that makes you do that. As long as your puppy understands what action the verbal command implies, they will be able to obey it. Feel free to choose things like “lie down” or anything you want it to be; it is entirely up to you.

In this step, you will include the verbal command of your choice before making the hand signal. For example, when the puppy is in a sitting position, you say the command “Down” before placing your hand in front of their nose. You repeat the process until you notice your dog reacting more to the command and less to the hand signal you were making. When that starts happening, you should slowly start moving the hand signal away completely. Remember that every time your dog successfully obeys your command, you click the clicker and reward them.

Some dogs, like the retriever breeds, are naturally attracted to the game of fetch. Others can be taught. Here is how to do it - How to teach a dog to fetch.

Professional tips

Some dog owners prefer training their dogs themselves, which is generally a great thing. The bond between them and their dogs will strengthen, and their dog will see them as a figure of authority. However, there are a few things they might lack in knowledge, so we have advised a dog trainer that shared his professional tips with us. Here is what he said about teaching a dog to lie down;

  • The timing of the reward is crucial. Make sure you reward your dog while they are still in the lying position and not when they are back upright. Giving your dog a treat when getting up might confuse them and make them think they are getting a reward for standing up from a lying position.
  • Excited puppies are very hard to work with. They are just full of energy, and their attention span is very short. It would be best to train your puppy for 10 - 20 minutes when they are tired and lying down won’t bother them.
  • Start the training in an area that doesn’t have too many distractions. You want your dog’s attention on you most of the time.

Congratulations! You have completed these steps, and your puppy will now know the command “Down!” Keep in mind to train often and refresh your puppy’s memory.

World Dog Finder team

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