Beginning Basic Obedience Down
· The DOWN is a very useful and important command for your dog to know.
· Use it whenever you want to get your dog under control.
· You can utilize this command to help solve many behavior problems.
· This command can be a lifesaver if your dog gets away from you and won’t obey your recall.
· Because the down is a submissive position for your dog, it is a powerful command for you to utilize.
Stage One - Introduction to command.
· Beginning Position - Begin with your dog in a sit position. Your dog facing left or right in front of you and you facing his side.
· Word Association - You must begin with word association and show your dog what you mean by down.
· Start Off Leash - It is best if you can begin teaching your dog to down without using a leash or collar. Instead you want to use food or a toy in one hand to guide the dog into position.
· (Fido is sitting facing right and you are kneeling by him with food in your right hand held even with his nose. As you give the command you use a sweeping down and out motion with your hand to guide him into position. Once Fido is all the way down you say “Good DOWN.” and give him the food.)
· (By sweeping down and out you are guiding your dog to lay down instead of if you just bring your hand down your dog may just bring his head down and not his body.)
· Tone of Voice - Your tone of voice should be a firm command. You are telling your dog to down.
· Timing of Command - At first, give the command once the dog is in the correct position (all the way down) so that he will learn what it means to down. Then once he understands what DOWN means, give the command in order to get him into position.
· Alternate Method - For the dog that won’t follow the food or toy down you may place your forearm behind his front legs so that you may gently guide his front legs out from under him as you give the command. This works particularly well with small breeds that are already so close to the ground that guiding them with food/toy just doesn’t work.
· What Not To Do - Do not get into a struggle of wills with your dog. This is why you want to try to introduce this command using food or a toy. Some dogs can be very resistant to this command at first though. If you do find yourself in a struggle of wills with your dog over this command you must always win. If you let your dog win you will have opened the door for an unreliable down.
· For the Really Stubborn Dog - Stop working the DOWN exercise into your training routine. Instead watch your dog very closely when you are with him and when you notice that he is starting to lay down casually say the word DOWN. When he is all the way down happily say “Good DOWN”. This will help to create the word association for the command. Play a game with your dog where you both SIT, DOWN, and SIT. By making the foundation for the DOWN a fun, non-threatening experience for your stubborn dog you may avoid the struggle of wills over this command. Work very gradually with this type of dog. Also, dominate this type of dog, let him know you’re the alpha in his pack. Otherwise you run the risk of never acquiring a solid down from this dog. Unfortunately, some dogs will only obey this command if you use your drill sergeant face and tone. Most dogs will obey if they think you are unhappy with them or they are in trouble.
· End of Introductory Stage - Once the dog understands what down means you can give the command and then as soon as the correct position is assumed give verbal praise and food reward.
Stage Two - Fine tuning the command.
· Stage One was to set the foundation. Now it’s time to get serious. Have your dog DOWN, but don’t praise or reward him until he has held it for predetermined time limit and you have come back to him and put him in a SIT.
· Now teach your dog to DOWN along your left side.
· Let your leash hang down a ways so that it is not too far off of the ground. When you give the command to DOWN simultaneously step on the leash with your left foot and pull up on the end of the leash with your right hand. This will have the effect of giving the dog a correction to down, but notice that the dog is being pulled down while you remain upright. You can do this using the flat collar, but with some dogs you may need to use the choke collar. You must make sure that you have a very solid DOWN command with your dog. Remember, eventually your dog must DOWN immediately when you give the command.
· Have your dog down and STAY when guests come to the door, while you are eating, and while you are changing your clothes.
· During HEELING, have your dog DOWN every time you come to the edge of the sidewalk before crossing.