One of the most confusing aspects of teaching your dog to lie down, is which command word do you use? Is it drop or down? Well, it can be either and it is completely up to personal preference.
Before you decide, think about what other commands you might use for your dog to make sure there is no double up. For some people, they will use the command “drop” when they want their dog to let go of something they have in their mouth. In that case, using “down” would be a better option for the lying down command.
Whichever command word you decide to go with, make sure you are ALWAYS consistent with it as using different words will have your dog looking very confused.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to refer to the lying down command and activity as “down” but if you prefer “drop” just swap this out, especially when it comes to the how to section.
How to teach your dog “down”
First things first, the correct way to teach your dog to lie down is from a STANDING position not from a sitting position. Your dog should fold back into down position back legs first rather than sliding forward from a sit. This means that only one command is needed and you don’t have to give the sit command first.
Step 1: Get in position.
Have your dog standing in front of you with their head near your dominant hand. They can either be facing your front on or standing perpendicular to you.
Step 2: Lure down.
When you are ready to start, have a couple of treats in your dominant hand and put your hand to your dogs nose. Then you are going to lure your dog into the down position by moving your hand back and downwards at a roughly 45 degree angle between their front paws. Your dogs nose should follow the food which will push their butts up in the air. Hold your hand down in this position without letting your dog at the treats until they fold back and put their butt on the ground.
As soon as they are in the down position use your marker word (“yes” or “good”) then give them the food treat.
Step 3: Remain in place.
When first teaching this activity I like to keep the dog in the down position for a few seconds before I release them from the position to help reinforce being in this position. Every couple of seconds I will say the marker word again and give the dog another food reward. If your dog finds being in the down position rewarding, they are more likely to offer it again and again as an easy way for them to get a treat!
Step 4: Release cue.
When it’s time to end the activity you need to let your dog know so they can get back up. To do this, use a release cue which signals to your dog that the activity is finished. I use “free” as my release cue and you can use any short word you like. When I say my release cue, I also move away slightly and hold another food treat in my extended arm to encourage my dog to get up from the down position.
Step 5: Repeat.
Your dog may not understand how to get into the position the first time and you may need to try luring down a few times before they get it. Don’t give up though, as once they understand the action and are rewarded for it, the next time will be much easier. Keep practising until your dog easily folds back into the down position.
Step 6: Adding the command.
Once your dog is able to go into position, it is now time to add the command. When you are ready to begin give your command “down” or “drop”, wait for a second or two to see if your dog will offer the behaviour since you have just been practising it! If after 2 seconds your dog hasn’t started to move, proceed to lure down like normal but don’t give the food treat yet. After 2-3 seconds in the down position where you have said your marker word, give your release cue to your dog then give the food treat one they are standing up again.