How to Teach Your Dog to Lie Down on Cue in 3 Easy Steps
When teaching dog training classes, especially for therapy dogs, "down" is one of the top five cues I like to focus on. That's because teaching your dog the behavior of lying down is so useful in a variety of contexts.
A down cue can be used as the building block for your dog to learn other fun behaviors and tricks like "roll over" or "go-to-bed." It's also the foundation for teaching your dog to relax or rest by you when company comes over—or when you want to take your pup with you to a restaurant patio.
Things to Have Ready Before You Start
Really Good Reinforcers and a Marker
A reinforcer (or sometimes called a "reward") is something your dog loves and easy for you to give. For 99 percent of dogs this is some kind of food or small, tasty treat. Foods like cut-up hot dogs, small pieces of cheese (if your dog doesn't have a sensitive stomach), lunch meat, or store-bought training treats are all good options. Let your dog pick. Your dog should be able to decide which type of reinforcer, treat or piece of food, they want to have.
A marker (or conditioned stimulus) is a sound or signal that pinpoints (marks) the exact moment your dog did something that earned them a reinforcer (the treat). A clicker is a great example of a conditioned marker. If you don't have a clicker you can use a consistent word like "yes" or"good" or a visual signal like a thumbs up, but pick one and stick to it.
Mark the behavior the second you see it. The more accurate and quick your mark is, the more effective your teaching becomes. (For the purposes of this article, we'll use the word "click" to indicate when you mark a behavior. If you use a different marker, just do that instead of clicking.)
3 Easy Steps to Teach Your Dog to Lie Down on Cue
Through the power of positive reinforcement you can teach your dog to lie down—and all sorts of other handy skills and behaviors. With each new learned behavior, your dog becomes a confident, happy canine, ready to accompany you on many adventures.