Want to teach your dog to lie down on cue? It’s simple – and it doesn’t require any pushing or pulling. While old-fashioned coercive methods forced dogs to the floor, modern trainers invite the dog to perform this important good manners behavior, and reinforce her when she does.
Lure-Shaping the Down
Lure-shaping is our most successful method for teaching “Down” at my dog-training facility, Peaceable Paws. Here’s how:
- Have your dog sit.
2. While she’s sitting, hold a tasty treat at the end of her nose and move it straight toward the ground an inch. When she lowers her nose to follow the treat, “mark” that desired behavior with a signal, such as the click of a clicker or a verbal marker such as the word “Yes!” and give her the treat.
3. Repeat multiple times, moving the treat lower and lower with each repetition. Each time she follows the treat, lowering her head, mark and give her a treat. (If she gets up as you lower the treat you’ve moved it too far too quickly. Back up and proceed more slowly.)
4. The goal is to lower the treat all the way to the ground, so that she lies down in order to reach the treat at ground level. If she gets stuck partway down, lowering her head but not bending her legs to lie down, move the treat slightly to one side. This shifts her weight onto one paw and encourages her to move the other paw forward. If she’s really stuck, try the Lure Under Method (See Sidebar).
5. When she’ll lure all the way down, it’s time to add the cue. You can use any word you like, though most people say “Down!” Start with the verbal cue, pause briefly, and then lure her to the floor as you did previously. Mark and treat!
6. Start “fading” the lure by whisking it behind your back when she’s almost down and letting her finish going down on her own. When her elbows reach the floor, mark and treat!
7. Occasionally pause a bit longer after you use your verbal cue and before luring, to see if she’ll lie down without the lure. If she does, mark and give her a jackpot of treats. A jackpot is when you give several higher value treats, one after the other after the other.
8. If she’s not offering Down yet, continue luring, gradually whisking the treat away sooner until she lies down on the verbal cue without any luring.