We all envy those with a well-trained dog and it can be frustrating when you can’t get your dog to behave the way you want them to.
The ‘lie down’ command is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. It allows you to control your dog in certain situations and push the pause button when things are heading south.
If you are looking to train your dog to lay down, then you have come to the right place. This is the ultimate guide to getting your dog to lie down and stay until you decide when they can get up again.
While training your dog to lie down isn’t the most difficult command, you are going to need time, patience and a whole lot of treats.
The Benefits of Teaching Your Dog to Lie Down
Before you even think about teaching your dog tricks like ‘paw’, you want to teach them basic commands that let you control them in different situations. Commands like ‘lie down’ and ‘sit’ are essential to dog control, and they open the door to more advanced forms of training.
Training your dog any command, including ‘lay down’ will also help you and your dog form a closer bond. It feels great teaching your dog a command and they will love to please you.
Let’s look at why the ‘lie down’ command is so great to teach:
- Down commands can help calm an overly excited dog. If your dog is bouncing off the walls or gets too excited in general, teaching them to get down is a great way to get that excitement under control.
- It helps dogs stick to one spot. Just like the ‘sit’ command, teaching your dog to lay down will help them stay in one spot. This can be really beneficial in all sorts of different situations and will help you get better control over your canine companion.
- It can be used when guests come to your house. While you might not mind your dog jumping all over you, your guests probably will. Teaching your dog to get down and stay calm is a great way to stop them giving your guests a big wet, slobbery kiss. It is also great for when your dog meets children or new puppies.
- A good down command will give you ultimate control over your dog. The ability to teach your dog to stop and get down is the best way to prevent them from moving towards a dangerous situation.
- Your dog can hold the position for a long time. Just like humans tend to find lying down relaxing, dogs are the same. If you need to get your dog to stay for a long time, this is the position to get them into.
- It keeps their brains working. Teaching your dog any command is a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Think of training as a fun, play session with your dog.
Common Questions When Teaching Dogs to ‘Lie Down’
Some of the questions below are related to owners who have already tried to teach their dog to lie down, but are having some issues with their behaviour.
Why Does My Dog Not Get Down When I Tell Them to?
Teaching your dog to lie down isn’t actually that hard. The problems start when you ask your dog to do it in different situations and with distractions around them.
While you may think that this is just a case of bad behaviour or that your dog is trying to be dominate, you would be wrong.
Your dog knows the ‘lie down’ command but fails to action on it because you have not reinforced it. You need to teach them to get down in all kinds of different environments with different distractions. Dogs do not understand this automatically, so you have to train them to understand it.
Many dog owners will teach their canine companions to lie down in the kitchen or somewhere in the house, but then expect them to do it in the park. In reality, teaching your dog to get down is not that easy.
My Dog Doesn’t Stay Down?
Another problem people seem to face is when their pups simply won’t stay in the down position.
This might be because someone touches the dog and they get excited, which can be incredibly frustrating. While this is annoying, it is perfectly natural for our dog; however, we are going to teach you how to stop this.
Another reason why your dog doesn’t stay in the ‘lay down’ position is because of the command they have been taught. Many owners teach their dog two commands ‘lie down’ and ‘stay’. This does work, but we want to take a different approach.
We want to teach our dog to lie down and then stay until we use a release cue, rather than asking them to stay. It may be a small difference, but it can have a big impact.
Remember that your dog doesn’t know how long they should lie down. If you teach them to wait for your signal, then there is no confusion and your dog will understand your command.
My Dog Won’t Lie Down When There Are Other Dogs Around?
Most dogs will not stay in a lying down position when there are other dogs around, they are just too interesting. It is only in a dog’s nature to want to play with other dogs and your command is much less interesting than them.
You will find that dogs that stay lying down when there are other dogs around are either really well trained, or just not interested in other canines.
When Should I Teach My Dog to Down?
Starting early is always the best option when it comes to training dogs. While puppies do tend to learn quicker than older dogs, you can certainly teach an old dog new tricks. Teaching an older dog to lie down may take a bit longer and a may require a few more treats!
Some Helpful Tips for Teaching Your Dog How to Lie Down
Pick A Good Place to Train
Establishing your training environment is incredibly important. Before you begin training your dog, think about where you are. Dogs can be easily distracted, so try to find a quiet place to train. Remember to try and use an area that is familiar to your dog as well.
Avoid any areas that have a lot of distractions when training. Things like food, toys or other dogs can easily ruin a training session. Your dog’s attention should be solely on you during the lesson.
- A room inside your house is a great place to train your dog initially. You will have loads of control over your dog and can confine them, so that all their attention is fixed on you.
- Tell other people in your house that a training session is going on. This will help to prevent any unwanted distractions from butting into the lesson.
Training outside, especially in the early stages of teaching your dog how to lie down can be problematic. It is much more difficult to control distractions outside and it is harder to confine your dog. If you have to train outside, use a lead to keep your dog close to you.
When you have progressed and your dog is comfortable lying down in a low-distraction area, move the training sessions to a place with more distractions. Increasing the difficulty will help reinforce good behaviour.
Remember that the floor your training on can also have an effect on your dog’s behaviour. Some dogs don’t like to lie down on a cold or uncomfortable floor. Teach your dog somewhere comfortable like on carpet or a rug.
Reward Your Dog with High-Value Treats
It’s so important to reward your dog and praise them when you are training. Dogs love treats and they love pleasing you, so let them know they are doing the right.
If you find that your dog just isn’t interested in training, it may be because you are not using the correct treats. Higher-value treats will make your dog more excited to please you and perform the task you want them to do. You may need to try a few different treats before you settle on one that works for your dog.
Remember to check that the food you are giving your dog is safe for them to eat. There are a whole host of different dangerous foods to dogs, so be cautious.
Take a look at our ‘Ultimate Food Guide for Dogs’ for more info on what food items are safe or unsafe for canines to consume.
Another thing to remember is that rewards don’t always have to be food. A favourite toy is also another great option, but at this early we recommend you use food to train your dog. Food is probably the quickest way of rewarding your dog, which is important when training.
Don’t Make Training Sessions Too Long
Always remember that dogs usually have short attention spans and can get distracted easily. Keeping your training sessions short can help to keep your dog focused on you, rather than other things.
Consider your dog’s age, energy level and focus level when deciding how long you should make your lesson. Puppies that are about 12 weeks old should be trained for no more than five minutes. Keep the training sessions to about two or three times a day, and remember to train them when they have energy.
For older dogs, you can get away with extending their training sessions to around ten minutes in length. Additionally, you can increase the number of sessions in a day, however, we think two or three, five minute lessons in a day should be more than enough to train your dog to lie down.
Keep It Positive
Training should be a fun positive experience for the both of you. If you turn it into a chore, both you and your dog will become fed up with it and the lesson will suffer.
Remember to always try and end your session on a positive note. For example, if your dog is lying down when you ask them to, you can end the session a bit earlier. Make the lesson more of a game as this will keep your dog more interested, and they will look forward to the next session with you.
If the lesson is headed south, give the command another couple of goes to try and see if you can finish on a positive note. You can also finish the training session with a game as well, which can help to make the lesson more positive.
Also remember to be positive yourself. Your dog will sense when you are not happy and they will get anxious. Try to remain calm and don’t get frustrated. If you find yourself getting annoyed, end the training session and try again later.
Think of Your Dog’s Mood
Sometimes, your dog just won’t want to train. They may be tired or they may be the opposite, overly excited. If your dog is sleepy, let them rest and train when they have a bit of energy. Dogs with too much energy can be a real handful, so try wearing them out a little bit before you train. Take them for a walk or play a game to expend some of that excess energy. Read this article for a bit more information on a dog’s mood and training.
Think About the Signal You Want to Use
The last tip we want to give you is to decide upon a signal before you start training. This guide requires you to use a signal for part of it, so think about what you want to use.
We recommend that you use ‘Yes’ as your signal. A clicker is another great signal you can use as well.
Always say ‘yes’ in a clear and enthusiastic manner, and then follow with a treat. Once your dog learns the signal that you use, they will begin to look for it when you are training. Using a signal will make the training easier and will reinforce any good behaviour.
We will be explaining how to use the signal as we progress through this guide.
Train Your Dog to Lie Down
Teaching your dog, the ‘down’ command is a fairly straightforward process. The position is completely natural for your dog and it is pretty comfortable as well. No one had to train your dog how to lie down, they just did it. All what you are doing is associating a command with the action.
There are a few different methods to training your dog to get down. Different methods can work better or worse with different dogs and their owners.
The main two methods we are going to look at in this guide is ‘luring’ and ‘capturing’.
You can also force your dog to get into the down position, however, we would not recommend this method.
Why You Should Never Force Your Dog to Lie Down
Old school trainers sometimes forced a dog to get into a position by forcing them. They would push and pull on parts of the dog’s body to get them into a position they wanted. This is not what we want to do.
Imagine if somebody much larger than you pushed down on your shoulders to force you to lie down. If you didn’t understand what they were asking for, it would be pretty scary, wouldn’t it? Your natural instinct would probably be to resist and fight this person.
Your dog will almost certainly feel the same way. They do not speak your language and forcing them into the down position can make them fearful. This sort of training method can reduce the trust your dog has for you, which can make future training sessions even more difficult.
Rather than making our dog do something out of fear or force, we want to teach our dog to listen to the command we give them. Your dog should happily listen to the down command and enjoy the training process. Forcing your dog into a position is counter-productive.
Check out this article for 13 effects of negative training methods with dogs.
The positive training methods we are going to show you in this article may take a bit more patience on both you are your dog’s part, but it will produce a better outcome. Your dog will be much happier about the down command and it will be a great bonding session for the both of you. If you follow the methods we give you in this guide, your dog will learn how to get down and they will enjoy it!
Train Your Dog the Lie Down Command with Capturing
The first method we are going to look at is ‘capturing’. Capturing works by waiting for your dog to lie down naturally, and then rewarding them when they do. You are also using the signal word or sound as we discussed earlier.
Your dog will learn that the signal (In our guide we are using ‘yes’) means that they are doing the right thing.
In most cases, it can be hard to give your dog a treat at the exact moment they are performing the desired behaviour. This is why we use a signal like ‘yes’ or a clicker to let them know what behaviour you are rewarding them for.
This same training method can be used for a variety of different behaviours. In this guide we are only using it for the down command, but we have also discussed it in our other training guides like ‘how to teach your dog to sit’.
Getting set up
The first thing you want to do is to get in a suitable training area. As we wrote earlier, avoid high distraction environments for this stage of training. If your dog is overly excited or has too much energy, take them for a walk or play a game with them. This will make them a bit more settled and controllable.
Capturing A Lie Down
Now that you are ready, the next step is to wait for your dog to lie down. Once your dog goes down, use your signal and then reward your dog immediately with a treat. You should wait for your dog’s elbows to touch the ground before doing this.
When you say ‘yes’ and give your dog a treat, they will almost certainly get up. This is perfectly fine and is actually quite helpful, as it sets you up for the next capture. Wait for your dog to lie down again and then repeat the same process.
What you are doing is essentially creating a ‘snapshot’ in time that lets your dog know that you liked it when they went into a lying down position.
You may find that your dog tries to offer you different behaviours to get a reward. While this is cute, you must ignore all other behaviour until they lie down again.
Once you have ‘captured’ a lie down around five times, your dog will start to realise that they are triggering the rewards you are giving them. Your dog will then try and figure out what they are doing that pleases you, so they can get more treats.
This is why we give a dog a signal. It tells them what you liked, so that they know to do it again in the future.
If you have used this method to teach your dog another command, then they will catch on pretty quick. Dogs that have not experienced this training method may take a bit longer.
Adding The ‘Down’ Command
The last step of this training method is to add the ‘down’ command. Your dog now understands that lying down is a good thing, but you now need to add the command into the mix.
You need to say the word ‘down’ just a fraction before your dog goes into a lying down position. We are still going to reward the dog and give them the signal just as before, but we are adding the command.
Eventually, your dog will associate this command with the action and they will begin lying down at your request.
Luring Your Dog into the Down Position
Luring is a pretty simple technique. It uses your dog’s love of food and their nose to get them into the right position. Your dog will follow the treat until they are lying down and then be rewarded.
Just like the previous method, you are going to need a lot of treats and you need to be in a low distraction environment.
Using the Lure
The first thing you need to do is get your dog’s attention with them facing you. Hold a treat in your hand, but don’t let your dog see it. Let your dog smell the treat, you should have their full attention at this point. If your dog doesn’t seem interested, you may have to try a different treat.
Once your dog’s nose is locked onto your fist, move your hand down towards the ground. Your dog’s head should follow your hand down, following the smell of the treat.
At this point, your dog will probably be in some strange position with their head on the floor and their bum up. What you need to do now is move your hand away from your dog along the floor. The movement of your hand and the treat should look like an “L”. Your hand moves directly down and then away from the dog.
Avoid moving your hand in a diagonal movement. If you have done the movement correctly, your dog should quickly drop to a lying down position and follow the treat.
Another tip is to ask your dog to sit before you get them to lie down. This way, your dog’s backend is already on the floor. If you haven’t taught your dog to sit already, we recommend you do this before teaching them to lie down. Check out our ‘how to teach a dog to sit guide’.
You may find that getting your dog to sit first doesn’t help. If this is the case, don’t worry just be patient. Some dogs may stay standing and paw at your hand rather than lying down. While this can be a bit frustrating, eventually your dog will lie down to get the treat. Remember, don’t give your dog a treat until they are in the position you want them in or if they attempt to get in the correct down position.
A Different Approach to Luring
If your dog isn’t responding to moving the treat in an ‘L’ shape away from them, you can go the opposite way. Rather than moving the treat away from them, try and push the treat towards them – aiming at a spot between their rear paws.
Most dogs will lean back, causing them to fold together into a lying down position. This can be an effective method if the above isn’t working for you.
Reward your dog as soon as their tummy meets the floor.
Getting Rid of the Lure
Losing the lure is an important part of this technique. While the foundation of this method is based on the lure, you do not want to rely on it for too long. This is because you and your dog can become dependent on the lure, which is not a good thing.
For this next stage, you are going to want to ditch the lure in your hand. However, remember to keep a treat hidden away in your other hand or close by.
Once your dog has moved into the down position around five times with a lure, repeat the process with an empty hand. Show your dog that your hand is empty and let them sniff it.
The next step is to move your empty hand in the exact same pattern as before. If your dog moves into the down position, reward them and give them the signal.
You may find that your dog does not follow your empty hand. If this is the case, give it another couple of goes and revert back to the lure if you are still not seeing any progress.
Carry on practicing without a lure, your dog should soon move into the ‘down’ position when you put your hand close to their nose.
Adding the ‘Down’ Command
Now that your dog understands that getting into the ‘down’ position is a good thing and they can do it without a lure, it is time to add the command.
Just as with the ‘capturing’ method, you need to say ‘down’ just a fraction before your dog’s tummy hits the floor. You are still going to reward your dog and give them the signal, but we are just adding the command into the mix.
With a bit more practice, your dog will soon begin to associate the word ‘down’ with the action of moving into a lying down position.
Why Does My Dog Not Stay in the Down Position?
So you’ve now taught your dog to get down, but they won’t stay. Most people want their dogs to stay when they ask them to lie down. Your dog isn’t going to know how to stay naturally. What you have taught them above is just moving into a lying down position.
In this next section we are going to teach your dog to stay, but before we do that let’s talk about the command.
In this guide, we are not going to use the word ‘stay’ or any sort of stay command. We think it is a waste of time and will actually hinder your training. Telling your dog to ‘stay’, whether it is in a lying down, sitting or any position can be confusing to them.
When you ask your dog to stay, they do not understand how long. To them, staying could mean a couple of seconds or a couple of minutes before they get up and move.
What we want to do is give them a release word or signal, that tells them when to get up.
Increasing Duration While Lying Down
Once your dog has got the hang of lying down on command, it is time to add some duration to it. We want to teach our dog that the down command means, “Lie down until I say you can get up and move.”
As we mentioned above, we need to teach our dog a release command or signal that lets them know when they can get up.
With a release command, you should ideally choose something that is not frequently heard in conversation. This is to prevent any confusion. Below we have listed a few common release commands:
- ‘off you go’
This release command can also be used for other positions where you want your dog to stay. If you have taught your dog one already, you can use that again.
When you first start, your dog probably isn’t going to stay in the down position for long. What you need to do is increase the duration that your dog can stay before you release them. Do this inside in a low distraction environment.
To start, ask your dog to lie down and simply wait a couple of seconds. Give the release signal and then reward your dog.
If your dog gets up before you release them, they get no reward. Tell them to lie down and try again. If you are successful, gradually build the duration of the stay before you give the release command. Move it from two seconds to three, then five and so on.
Mix up shorter stays with longer ones to keep the training interesting. Don’t expect a whole lot from younger puppies. If you can manage a thirty second stay before they are released, you are doing well.
Once they are trained. Older dogs should be able to easily stay in a lying down position for around thirty minutes. While this seems like a long time, by gradually building up the duration you should eventually get there.
Getting your dog to stay in the down position for thirty minutes is no use if you can’t walk away without them getting up. Creating distance between you and your dog is an important part of getting them to stay. For this phase of the training you should start inside.
Once your dog can stay for about half a minute in the down position, you can start to introduce some distance into the mix.
To start, ask your dog to lie down and then take one step away from your dog. Return to your dog and reward them if they stay lying down.
If you are successful, gradually increase the distance you move away from your dog over the course of several training sessions. Always remember to return to your dog and reward them if they stay.
Failing to return to your dog can make them ‘break’ the stay, which can hinder the training process. You want avoid telling your dog to ‘come’ as well, as this can have the same effect. For this training guide we are simply walking away and then returning to them.
Eventually, you should be able to walk a couple of meters away from your dog and then return to them, while they are lying down.
Now that your dog knows the ‘down’ command, you can mix it up a little. Switching commands is an important part of making sure your dog understands what you are asking of them.
Ask your dog to ‘sit’. You may find that your dog lies down instead of sitting. This is because your dog does not fully understand the commands you are giving them.
If your dog does not sit when you ask them to, lure them into a sitting position and reward them. Throw another treat away from your dog so they have to get up and move to get it. When your dog comes back to you, ask them to sit again and repeat until your dog stops lying down.
The next thing you want to do is ask your dog to lie down. See if they sit or lie down. If your dog sits, repeat the same process as above, expect you are getting them to lie down.
Eventually, your dog will begin to understand what command means sit and what one means lie down. You can start to alternate the two commands, until your dog can respond to each one correctly.
This process can take a couple of training sessions to get right, so be patient.
Introduce Some Distractions
Now that you can get your dog to lie down and stay, it is time to add some distractions. People often forget that this is an incredibly important part of the training process. Your dog may lie down in the kitchen, but making them do it in the park with other dogs is a whole different ball game.
What you need to do is slowly introduce distractions into your training sessions. These could be family members walking in and out of the room or even another dog.
If your dog is finding the distractions too tempting, try and reduce their intensity. For instance, if you have another dog in the room try and move them further away from the dog you are training.
The other thing you need to do is reduce the distance and duration when you are making them stay. Don’t make your dog wait too long, as the distraction will become more interesting than you. Additionally, if you move too far away from your dog, they may go to the other person or dog in the room instead.
Break your training sessions down into easy stages and go back to a previous stage if your dog fails. Teach your dog to lie down when guests come to the house or when you move in and out of doors.
The general rule of adding distractions is to only add one at a time. Don’t try to add too many at once as this can be frustrating and can make your training go backwards.
Moving Your Training Outside
At this stage, you’ve probably only trained your dog inside (unless you don’t have enough room). Now we are going to move outside, which introduces a whole lot more distractions.
The distractions you find outside on walks are less controllable than the ones in your house. It may be another dog walking down the street or an interesting new smell. You need to teach your dog to lie down when these distractions are around and make them stay.
The best thing to do is start in a quiet corner of a park. This way you can avoid the majority of the distractions around your dog, but they are still in a new environment. You can slowly move towards the distractions when your dog successfully lies down and stays.
Remember to avoid long training sessions. Take your dog for a walk and then spend five minutes in the park teaching them to lie down with distractions around.
When you first start training your dog in an area like a park, you can use a lead as this will prevent them from running away.
Increase the intensity of the distractions until your dog can lie down and stay with other dogs and people around.
Don’t Become Dependent on Treats
While treats are a great way of training your dog, you do not want to become dependent on them. Eventually, you will want to phase out treats. Once your dog understands what you are asking them, you can get them to do it a few times before rewarding them with food.
This is important because sometimes you will want your dog to lie down, but you do not have any treats available. It will also wind up saving you money in the long run and can help stop your dog’s waistline from ballooning.
You can replace food rewards with something else that motivates your dog. For example, you could praise your dog or find a toy they get really excited about.
Treats can still be used, just less often. Don’t be predictable with your rewards, keep your dog guessing and they will love it. Mix up praise with food rewards, toys and games.
In addition to mixing up their rewards, you can also ask for a series of behaviours before rewarding your dog. For example, you may ask your dog to sit, then lie down and then sit again before rewarding them. This will further ingrain the commands in your dog’s mind and will help them understand what you are asking for.
Summing Up How to Train Your Dog to Down
Teaching your dog to lie down will require patience and commitment on both you are your dog’s part. Just like teaching your dog to sit, getting them to lie down on your command is one of the best things you can teach your dog.
It can help keep your dog safe and will make them better around people. Tell your dog to lie down when people came to the house and everyone will love your dog that much more.
When it comes to the two training methods we’ve gone through in this guide, we feel that luring is probably the quicker method. Both methods should work fine however, and it should be great fun training your dog.
A signal like ‘yes’ or a clicker are useful aids when training. They will let your dog know that they are doing the right thing instantly. In addition to a signal, don’t forget high-value rewards to make your dog even more exited to train.
Train your dog two or three times a day to bring on fast results, without overwhelming them. Remember that the most important part of training is having fun!
If you have any questions or other tips on teaching a dog to down, leave them in the comments below.