Canine Manners 101: Teaching Your Dog The Down Command

"Down" is a great interception command. If you see a potentially dangerous situation about to occur, such as the lure of a door accidentally left open, what command can you use to stop your dog from going anywhere? Down! If you simply want your pooch to go settle elsewhere as you are cleaning, carrying heavy items or having a picnic in the park, "down" is the ideal command to instruct your dog on how to behave in these situation

The concept: Once again, your pup will follow food. You move the bait where you want him to go and his body will go with it.

Step 1: Start from the sit position (your dog should know the “sit” command before attempting the “down”). With a tempting, meaty treat in hand, raise a tidbit in front of your dog’s nose and then, with one smooth movement, lower it towards the floor and pull it back slowly away from him (starting from the tips of his paws and moving towards yourself). He will hopefully follow it, ending up in a down position.

Step 2: Incorporate the word “down” with the action. While you are leading your dog into the down with the treat, use the command “down” so he begins to associate the meaning of the word with the movement of lying down.


If your dog is having trouble following the treat as you move it away from his paws, you may be moving your hand too fast, or he may just not like the treat you are using as bait! Slow your movements down and try a more flavorful treat (we find that tiny pieces of turkey dog work well!)

If you’re getting the opposite response, meaning your pup is standing up, it probably means you’re not lowering the treat to the ground and instead are pulling it out in front of him, causing him to want to move forward.

If you find yourself repeating the command over and over – don’t. Your pup is not hard of hearing! He’s just not understanding what you want to do yet or choosing not to do it. Saying a command too many times may desensitize him to the word, making association with the desired action more difficult. Instead, say the command once and then guide him into the down with the treat. Patience will pay off! Lots of praise and treats when he gets the hang of it, of course!

Canine Manners 101 Training Series


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