Down is a more long-term stay than a Sit. It's also more practical than lugging around a place bed everywhere you go. Down teaches your dog to stay in a relaxed position while life happens around them.
1. Make sure to have all your supplies ready.
Treat pouch filled. Clicker in hand. Slip leash positioned high on neck, rotated so it's coming from under the chin.
Did you see what's new with step 1? If you skipped over, you may want to reread that last sentence.
Using a clicker during this exercise really accelerates the dogs' learning. It can also be difficult to juggle so much happening in your hands at once. If you're having trouble, pocket your clicker and focus just on the leash and food.
2. Teach first from the sitting position.
Use the leash to get your dog sitting. Don't say the word "Sit" and don't reward them for putting their butt on the ground. Dogs have an easier time lying down from the sitting position. They should be sitting for just a moment before we're encouraging them to lay down.
3. Teach your dog to follow the leash down
While your dog sits, kneel beside them. This is less intimidating for them and makes the whole exercise easier for you.
In the hand closest to their head, hold the leash and food. Pull the leash forward and down to guide them toward the ground. Make sure they know the food's there. This gives them more reason to follow.
The first time you try this, it can take a while. Don't get discouraged; keep holding the leash. With your free hand (the hand holding the clicker) press on your dog's shoulders and gently rock them forward.
As soon as your dog's elbows hit the ground, click, release all leash pressure, and feed. Set the food between your dog's front paws.
4. Same thing, but standing.
We don't want to always have our dogs in a sit before asking them to lay down. Better yet, we don't want to have to crouch every time we tell our dogs to lay down.
Once your dog is easily following the leash downward, skip the step of putting them in the sitting position.
A trick to try so that you can remain standing is the foot pedal trick. Hang the leash so that there's plenty of slack in front of you. Loop this slack under your foot and pull the handle side of the leash so that the collar side of the leash is being pulled downward.
Say "Down" once before using the leash to guide your dog down. We want them to learn the pattern that every time they hear the word "Down" they're told through the leash to lay down. This continued pattern is how to have your dog respond to just the word "Down."
6. Build the 3 D's
Work on strengthening your dog's down stay. Build the 3 D's just as we have for place and sit.
7. Switch to corrections.
When your dog has a very clear understanding of that downward leash pressure, you can switch to corrections. Corrections are our way of teaching our dogs to make decisions more independently.
1. Say "No" neutrally, as soon as your dog breaks its down.
2. Give a quick tug of the leash down and forward.
3. Remind your dog "Down."
4. Repeat until your dog returns to the down position.