I wouldn’t say teaching your dog to down will be easy, but it is important.. It should be one of the first few commands you teach your dog as it helps to reinforce your role as the “Alpha dog”.
It will also come in extra handy when you are visiting friends and you don’t want your dog knocking over their collection of priceless antique china!
If you are thinking about jumping right into the ‘Down” command, the first step that you will have to take is to get your dog to lay down. If you sit back and observe your dog for a while, you will soon be able to tell when he is about to lay down and at that point, you want to issue the ‘Down” command.
When he finishes laying down, praise him and give him one of his favorite treats. At first he will probably just think he lucked out and is getting a nice treat for nothing, but you must keep repeating this task of issuing the command ‘Down” as he is laying down and giving the treat afterwards. Soon he will begin to associate the command with the action.
It might be easier for you to start from the sit command and “force” your dog to lay down. One way to do this is to get your dog to sit, then say “Down” and pull his front paws outward (gently, of course) so that he lays down.
When he is laying down, pat him and give him a treat. Then get him back into the sitting position and repeat.
Another method you might try is to use a collar and short leash. Get the dog in a sitting position and pat the ground or take a treat or toy and move it from his chin to the ground while issuing the “Down” command. If he doesn’t get the hint, then pull gently on the leash to get him in the down position.
Remember when training your dog that you must be kind and gentle. When trying to get him in the down position, you don’t want to hurt him or force him – just use gentle encouragement.
Always reward your dog when he does lay down, but don’t punish him if he does not lay down as punishment will not help you towards your end goal.
When training your dog, you have to work hard not to confuse him. Your dog might be stuck on the “Sit” command and be confused about the “Down” command thinking he is supposed to remain sitting!
It’s your job to get the point across using encouragement and clear, concise commands. Your dog can only process information at the level of a 2 year old human and you need to keep this in mind in order to have successful, fun and fulfilling training sessions.
Dog training is fun. Sure it may be difficult at times but a few months from now it will all be worth it.