The ‘lay down’ command, or ‘down’ command, is quite possibly the most important thing that an indoor dog can learn to do. Truth be told, I work on the ‘lay down’ command about 50 times for every time I work on the ‘sit’ command. The reason being is that the ‘lay down’ command has much more utility. I want my dog to be comfortable as he or she is staying put and the dog is far more comfortable in a down position than in a sitting position.
To train a dog to lay down there are essentially two main stages:
- The teaching stage.
This is the stage where we teach the dog what the command ‘lay down’ actually means. Dogs aren’t verbal learners so much as they are physical learners.It’s important, if you want your dog to down, that you associate something physical with the command. To not do this does nothing to train; your dog hears thousands of words a day. In order for him to know THIS word or THIS command you need to attach meaning to the word.To teach this concept there are a variety of methods. You could use treats to guide the dog down. You could use a leash and apply light pressure to guide the dog down. You could cajole or manipulate the dog by guiding them down with your hand.As you succeed in getting the dog to lie down you need to then attach the command. With enough repetition the dog will understand that ‘lay down’ means to get the elbows on the ground.
You aren’t done yet, though. The dog simply understands the concept. That doesn’t mean that the dog will be good at it, though.
It’s like when you first teach a kid to ride a bike. They may understand the mechanics of how to pedal and balance but that doesn’t mean that they are proficient by any means.
They need more repetition and they need a few more times falling over to give them the motivation to get really good at the skill. That is where the second stage comes in.
- The proofing stage.
The proofing stage is where you teach the dog that, now that he knows the skill of lying down on command, that he needs to do it with consistency. This is as simple as adding a deterrent, or correction, when the dog disobeys. A simple and humane leash correction is typically all that is needed. With repetition and ‘backing up’ your commands the dog will soon learn to lie down every time with consistency.