Step One: Lure

Start with your dog in a sit. Lure your dog into a down by putting the treat to his nose and slowly moving the treat down to the ground. Keep the treat close to your dog’s nose—if you move your hand down too quickly or too far away from his mouth, he may not understand what you’re asking.

Step Two: Mark & Reward

As soon as your dog’s knees and elbows hit the ground, say “yes” or click and treat. Keep treating him to thank him for staying in the down. After a few seconds say “Okay!” and encourage him
to get up. If he gets up before you release him, start at the beginning again by luring back into the down position. Release him more quickly this time, then keep practicing to work up to longer downs.

Step Three: Repeat it

Repeat until you get a down 10 times out of 10 times, several trials in a row. When your dog starts to go into the down very quickly, it is time to start using the command and removing the food lure.

Step Four: Cue

Now that your dog knows what you want him to do with his body, you can add the verbal cue “down”. Start by giving the verbal cue “down”, wait for one full second and then lure down like you have been. Continue to lure with your hand that previously held the treat but this time reward with the opposite hand. Do not show the dog that you’re holding the treat in your other hand.

Continue to use the marker either “yes!” or click and reward. After a few successful trials, start to fade away the use of your hand to lure and just use the verbal cue “down”.

Step Five: Practice!

Continue to practice and slowly remove the treats by only treating for the best 9 out of 10 trials, then the best 7 out of 10 trials, continuing until you treat only for the best or fastest trials.

  • Try hard to remember not to repeat the command. Say it only once, pause, and lure.
  • It will also help to treat your dog whenever you just happen to find him lying down. This will help with learning down because he’ll be more likely to try this position. It will also help with general behavior at home. If you reward your dog often for lying quietly around the house he’ll lie quietly around the house more often!