It is best to hold off teaching your dog to lie down until after you have him coming to you on command. This way, you stand a better chance of not having him confuse the command with “sit” or “stay.” The three are fairly similar, after all, so it’s better to separate these commands in time so that he understands they are separate and distinct.
The “down” command is a relatively easy one, but for some strange reason, it tends to be something many dogs are obstinate about. Often you will find that when you tell your dog to sit and stay, after a while he will get tired and lie down, but when you tell him to lie down, he will refuse. Make sure that your dog learns that you mean what you say, and that “sit” means sit only.
Teaching the dog to lie down is a much easier operation than “come.”
Most of the teachings are relatively easy. They just eat up a lot of your patience.
The first thing to do is to sit yourself down comfortably on the floor facing your dog, who should also be sitting. Place one hand on his upper back and the other behind the lower part of his front legs.
Give the command “down,” and at the same time, push down on his back and pull his legs out from under him-very carefully so that he doesn’t think he’s going to get hurt.
As soon as he is lying down, say “good boy” and praise him. In a dog’s mind, being pushed is an aggressive act on your part, you’re pushing him into submission, therefore, do it very slowly and gently so that he doesn’t panic. I don’t advise that you try this with a full-grown strange dog, as you could get bitten. Make sure that he knows you well before doing this, and have him well trained in obeying the sit-and-stay commands and accustomed to obeying you.
Once he is lying down and you have praised him, push him back up into a sitting position, but without giving the command for him to sit.
Then repeat the same thing over and over, until he lies down with only a slight pressure on his back.
At this point you can feel sure that he has some idea of what the command “down” means and is ready for the next step. Put him in a sitting position. Hook your left thumb under his collar, and turn your right hand palm down. Move your hand straight down to the floor in front of him, thus showing the dog the direction you want him to go. At the same time give the voice command “down,” and pull down on his collar with a firm steady pressure. Do not jerk on the collar, and make sure that you keep the hand with which you gave the command down on the floor in front of him.
Once he is down, remove your thumb from the collar and with your right hand give him the “stay” command. Then after he is staying, praise him.
Continue this exercise, gradually exerting less and less pressure on the collar. Once he responds with no pressure on the collar whatsoever, then you know that he has associated your word and hand commands with the act of lying down. At this point just give him the command once. If he refuses, then exert pressure. This exercise is complete only after he responds on the first voice or hand command of “down.”
When teaching your dog to lie down, it is most important to remember three things. First of all, once he starts to lie down on his own, release the pressure that you exert on him. Secondly, as soon as your dog actually reaches the down position, always release your hand command for “down” and change it to a “stay” command. If you don’t do this, he will probably roll over on his back, a submissive gesture, in response to your aggressive act of pushing him down. Thirdly, don’t keep repeating, “Down, down, down,” while you try to get him to lie down.
As in all commands, say it only once. In this command, however, it is a good idea to say “dowwwwn” in a long-drawn-out tone, to let it sink in. Continue this pronunciation until he learns the word and then you can say it in your normal way.
Now he is ready to learn to respond to this command when you are in a standing position. Put on his six-foot training leash, and tell your dog to sit and stay. Take hold of the leash and put it under the arch space of your shoe just between the sole and heel of your shoe where the leash will slide freely back and forth. Then stand up straight, holding the end of the leash in your left hand.
At this point one end of the leash should be attached to his collar, the other end should be in your left hand, and the middle of it should be under your shoe. With your right hand, make the ‘down” motion, and at the same time tell him “dowwwwn.”
If he does lie down, praise him and make him stay. If he refuses, repeat the hand and voice command, but this time exert a slow steady pressure “lie Down” by pulling up on the leash. The leash will then “feed” through the arch of your shoe and force him down. Keep your hand in the downward position until he reaches the floor.
Once you feel that he is going to lie down, let up on the pressure on the leash. Again, make sure that you give the command “down” only once. Continue repeating this exercise until the dog lies down of his own accord on both the voice and hand commands. Once he lies down without your exerting any pressure on the leash, you can take off the leash and try without it. Give the voice and hand commands and praise him if he obeys. If he refuses, it means he is not quite ready for this step, so go back a step.
Remember to use as few words as possible, and isolate your basic commands. One family’s dog was repeatedly found up on the furniture, even after being told to “get down” or “jump down.” I handled this problem by analyzing the word “down.”
“Down” is a command meaning to lie down, not off. When they want their dog to get off the furniture, whit they really should be saying is “no.” Oddly, the owners were more upset that their dog couldn’t take more sophisticated commands than they were at being unable to communicate with him. Consider how hard it is for small schoolchildren to learn the meaning of prepositions such as in, out, through, to. Treat your dog with the same respect.
Once he lies when you’re standing, try it when He’s standing. If he is proficient in following the “down” from a sitting position, as he should be by this time, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble. He knows what the word means. Merely place him in a standing position and tell him to lie down. If he refuses, push him down. Continue to do this until he lies on command.
When he does this command perfectly, you are ready to link the “sit,” “stay,” and “down” commands together. Before doing this, however, isolate the separate commands and review any weak points.
Sitting Up from a Lying Position A satisfied client admitted that the only thing that continued to bother him about his Weimaraner was that he had a tendency to lie down in the car. The man wanted his dog to sit straight up in the car, at attention. Unless it’s your special fetish, why not let your dog be comfortable wherever he is?
Once your dog understands the “down” command thoroughly, he’s ready to learn to sit back up again. Make him lie down, then give him the command to “sit,” bringing your hand straight up from the “down” position. If he doesn’t sit up, either jerk him up by his leash or place your foot under his chest and give him a nudge so that he is forced to sit up. Repeat this until he sits up on command. Remember always to praise him when he reaches the sitting position, no matter how he gets there, and never use too many words in a command. When a dog is lying down and you want him to sit up, use the command “sit” and not “up.”
To get him to stand from a down position, first give the command “stand.” Raise your right hand in an upward motion above your head and jerk him straight up with the leash, not allowing him to sit. As soon as he stands, give him the “stand” command and then praise him. Kiter he responds with only a slight jerk on the leash, take it off and try him without it. If he refuses to stand, nudge him in the ribs. This should be enough of a reminder, but if not, put his leash back on and start again. Continue practicing until he responds.
By the time you’ve completed this training, your dog should be old enough to go outside. So when he is perfect indoors, your lessons can now proceed outdoors.
Take him out and work the exact same exercises in the exact same order that you did inside. Start him on a leash and let him work his way to freedom.