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How best do I try and teach the "down" command?

907 Views 8 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Kaila
Okay. All 3 of my girls have sit and shake. The two big girls know stay. The little one is such a spaz this has been difficult so I have paused her on it. They are all such back leg standers and dancers, I am pausing on "dance" because I am trying to get them to stay calm and seated to receive a treat and I feared that dance would conflict with that.

I am ready to try the "down" command. I have tried what I thought would be correct and it was a fail.

How did you teach this command and is there something I should teach prior to this one?

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Are you training them all at once, in the same room, at the same time? Or do you take them off separately to teach the initial command?
I put my on a sofa or a bed and have them sit close to the edge. Once they are sitting down, have a treat in your hand, show it to them and give the "Down" command. Then lower the treat straight down in front of them and slightly below the edge of the bed or sofa. They will usually go all the way down to get to the treat. After the pup is downing reliably on the sofa or bed, I move them to the floor. Not sure if this will work for you but this is the only thing that worked for me. Good luck!
Once Gracie had learned to sit, all Pete (hubby) had to do was tap the floor in front of her to get her to go down. He would not release the treat to her til she did it. Of course, he had to make things difficult and train her with hand motions rather than words - he used the words initially, but dropped them all together once she got each trick down pat. My hand motions must not be just like his, no matter how hard I try, because I have to use words.
Thank you!
I have been training them together. It has worked well thus far. They are so connected, one in another room is more torturous and distracting to all involved! I can try separate training.
I just did not want to push them down to get them down and they were so not getting my words, signs nor charades! haha!
I just train separately because leila is a lunatic around food. When i taught both mine down i just had them get in the sit postion then placed the treat close to their nose then lowered it down to the ground. Once they layed down they ate the treat in the down position.
I think it's easier to train separately too when it comes to more complex stuff, plus its good for your dogs to learn to focus on you individually without their buddies ;)
I can't teach them down either. Not even my smarter Chi, Bella, lol. When I put them in a sit then put the treat low to the ground, they just put their heads down, but won't actually lay down. I don't know what else to do!! They know "sit", "spin", "up", and "stay". I want to teach them "come" while we are at the park... especially for my lil terror, Izzie!
I can't teach them down either. Not even my smarter Chi, Bella, lol. When I put them in a sit then put the treat low to the ground, they just put their heads down, but won't actually lay down. I don't know what else to do!!
This is a really common problem in teaching "down." Some dogs will just look at the treat or sit when asked for a down. Here's what works for me with these kinds of dogs. I bolded/underlined the summarized steps for easier reading.

* Practice only one behavior at a time.
* Practice for only 15 minutes per session (per dog)--you can have several sessions per day, however.
* Be consistent: If you accidentally click/mark the wrong behavior, you HAVE to give a treat. It doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things if you treat the wrong behavior once, but it WILL make your dog lose faith in the process and get really frustrated if some clicks/marker words aren't getting her the treat that they're supposed to promise.
* Your treats should be smaller than your fingernail and extra special. I like to use deli meat because Teddy rarely gets human food.
* Try to give a command only once. (The command is not "Down.. down.. down.. DOWN!" It's "Down.")
* End on a good note: if your dog is getting frustrated, try to get her to do something similar to what you want (in this case it could be a play-bow, going down and immediately getting up, starting to bend her elbows and then stopping, etc.) treat her, then be done. If you can't do that, then have her do a trick that she knows really well, treat, and be done.

Here's the setup:

1) Work with one dog at a time unless your dogs won't act as a distraction to one another. Two at a time might be fine if they're calm. Watching another dog learn a trick can help the others learn it faster, but it might help if you secure the trick with your fastest learner alone before "showing it off" to the other two.

2) Sit on the floor (I suggest a carpeted floor as some dogs refuse to go down on hard or cold surfaces) with your treats.

3) Put one knee up so that your foot is on the floor and your knee is pointing straight up at the ceiling. You should be making a little triangle under your knee with the ground.

4) Extend your leg until you find a comfortable height for your dog. Usually in the beginning this is slightly higher than the height she'll need to crawl under since most dogs won't crawl under something they've never crawled under before. She'll need more room at first.

5) This trick requires NO PUSHING on your dog's back! At first, get your dog to sit at the entrance of the "triangle" tunnel you've created with your leg. Reach your hand around to the other side of your leg, hold the treat low to the ground, and try to lure her through the tunnel. Your leg should be close enough to the ground (like a limbo stick) that she'll have to get down on her belly and stretch her neck through or crawl forward to get it.

Here's the actual process:

6) Knee up, treat in luring hand:
Click (or mark, such as with the word "Yes!") the second you see her elbows start to bend at all, and give a treat. Treat for any inclination towards laying down. Toss the treat away from you in order to "reset" the dog before doing the trick again. Then get her back in the original "sit" position. YOU SHOULD ONLY HAVE THE TREAT IN YOUR HAND FOR THREE TRIALS. (A trial ends when the dog eats the treat.)

7) Knee up, no treat in luring hand (dog doesn't know it yet):
Start to pair the word "Down" and a downward movement of your hand with the action, once she's doing it reliably. Only do this when she is no longer hesitating to go down. She should know how to get the treat by now so she should be flopping down on her belly knowingly each time to get rewarded. She should still think that there's a treat in your hand. (I like to keep my luring hand closed to trick the dog.)

8.) Knee up, no treat in luring hand (reveal to dog after down):
Keep your knee there but show your dog that there's no treat in your luring hand AFTER she goes down. Produce the treat from your other hand which appears from behind your back after she's laid down. This should be sort of a surprise to your dog, who is used to seeing the treat come from your "luring" hand. Show her very clearly that it's not in that hand--instead, it's in the opposite hand. This will prevent her from blindly following your hand and actually reason what behavior is getting her the treat. Move on to the next step immediately.

9) Knee up, no treat in luring hand (reveal to dog before down):
Show her very clearly that the treat is not in your hand BEFORE asking her for a "down." She will have to follow your luring hand knowing that there's no treat inside it, but that going down will get her a treat from your other hand. Practice asking for "Down" until she has it with this new criteria.

10) Sitting, no treat in luring hand:
Remove your knee from the equation and sit normally You should be able to use the word "Down" and a downward hand motion as the cue for the "down" behavior. She should no longer be following your luring hand with her head because she's not just eye-balling the food. Practice asking for "Down" until she has it with this new criteria. This is the most difficult transition and you might have to back up a few steps if she gets confused.

11) Start adding distance. Gradually work to giving the "down" command while sitting, then kneeling, then standing, then standing one step back, then two steps back, then sitting at the dinner table, etc. Practice, practice, practice.

I can't stress this enough:
If your dog is struggling with any step, GO BACK and practice the steps before it until she has it 100%. Set her up for success! When you next go to train your dog after it's been a while (a few hours or a few days), you might have to back up a few steps even though she's already gotten the behavior correctly before. This is normal.

This short video is about using treats as lures and when to stop using the lure while training. It also makes this process of fading the lure (steps 6-10) a lot more obvious and simple to understand.

I hope this helps and it's not too complicated.. It's so much easier to show this process than it is to describe it!
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