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Teaching The 'Down' Command
The Down command is one of the most basic dog obedience lessons your pup needs to learn.
It usually comes second, right behind the 'Sit' command (which is the simplst of all).
It's one of the basic foundations for formal obedience work, but it also comes in very useful in every day life with a dog.
Once your little one understands, and obeys, the 'Down' it gets easier to control him both indoors and out, and can be used to help him calm down or keep him out of trouble in situations such as these.....
When there's a lot of excitement, noise or children/pets running around and you need your little guy to stay put!
When you're out walking and want to stop and talk to someone without having the leash twisted around your legs, or your arm yanked out of it's socket
In shops, restaurants or other buildings when your puppy needs to appear calm and well-mannered
As part of more advanced obedience lessons, including learning to 'Stay' and 'Come', or as part of retrieving, tracking or other 'work.
When visitors come to your home and they don't want to be licked to death, or covered in pawprints... or you just want to be able to chat without distractions.
Of course there are lots of other times when being able to get your pup to lie down quickly and quietly comes in handy, I'm sure you won't have trouble coming up with your own list :)
How To Teach Your Pup The Down Command
Here are just a handful of easy steps that will help you train your pup to obey the Down command reliably.
Print the steps by clicking on 'Print' button underneath the box. (*may not work with all browsers)
Dog Training Commands - 'Down'
Start off with your puppy in the sit position, then hold a treat about 6" in front of his nose so that he can smell it. (You don't want to be far enough away for him that he wants to get up and move towards it, but not so close that he's trying to grab it from your hand either)
Slowly lower the treat to the floor in front of him, moving your hand further away from him as you get closer to the floor.
While you're doing this say 'Fido down' firmly. As always this is a command, not a question, but you don't want to scare him by barking it out or shouting. A firm but loving and encouraging tone is what you're aiming for.
The idea here is to get your pup to stretch forward and down, following the treat. This should naturally cause his front legs to slide forward too, and he should end up in the 'down' position, with the hand holding the treat on the floor between his front two paws.
Just as soon as your little one's tummy is on the floor you can let him have his treat and tell him how wonderful he is!
But calm praise, you don't want him to leap up and run around in circles - just to know that he's done what you wanted and made you happy :)
A Little Extra Help.....
You can help shape your puppy's response to the Down command, if needed, by using your treat-free hand to gently push down between his shoulders which will slide your pup's front legs forward.
If he still resists, use the hand with the treat to gently pull his front legs forward while giving some light pressure on his shoulders.
Again though, only do this if your pup is getting confused and doesn't understand what you want, and only for the first couple of tries until he's got a grasp of the concept.
This isn't a wrestling match though and the pressure shouldn't be enough to cause your pup to fight it.
If you do it gently, while encouraging him to 'down' in a happy voice and reward him as soon as he is in the right position he will figure it out pretty quickly.
Remember your puppy wants to please you, and to obey the dog commands you are giving him... but he doesn't always understand what it is that you want right away!
Here's a short video that shows you exactly what I've talked about on this page.
It will help you to make sure that you're doing it right.....
Once your puppy understands the 'Down' command and obeys it quickly, start asking him to lie down directly from a standing position rather than a sitting one.
Even though he knows what down means, he might need a little extra guidance and encouragement to get it right at first because dogs are creatures of habit and up until now he's always associated 'Down' with 'Sit'. He needs to learn that it means lie down regardless of what position he was in at first!
Also, make sure to regularly practice 'Sit' as a stand-alone command (ie not followed by the 'Down'). This is to prevent your pup from associating the two of them as a sequence rather than two separate instructions.
If you ALWAYS ask your little guy to lie down after he's sitting he'll soon start to slide straight into the down position and the two commands get blurred in his mind.