How To Get Your Dog To Go “Down”

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Clients often ask me about how to get their dog to go “down.” My first question to them is when exactly are you asking for a down? Many times I find that clients are asking for “down” when they should be asking for “off.” The down command should be asking for the dog to go belly to the floor. The off command should be for everything else – off the couch, off of me, etc. I also have clients that will tell me that their dog will not down – to which I point out that they don’t sleep standing up, so they must be physically able to do it.

Here are the tricks to teaching the down command. I like to start with the dog in a sit. Sometimes it is also easier to start on a non-carpet floor. Give your verbal command (down), and hand signal (I use a straight hand starting in the air and moving in a sweeping downward motion). If your dog does not lay down on command yet, there are a few things you can do to show what you mean. With your dog in a sit, hold a treat at his nose and pull the treat from his nose in a straight line down between his paws. As his nose follows the treat down, simulate an “L” by then moving the treat from between his paws to straight out in front of him. Do this part on the floor slowly so it doesn’t tempt the dog to take a step forward. If after a few attempts he’s not getting it, you may need to place your hand on his hindquarters, or shoulder to guide (not push). If these attempts fail, try sitting on the floor, your legs straight out in front of you, bend your knees up and lead your dog under your legs with a treat and as your dog starts to crawl under your knees for the treat, repeat the down command. If your dog is on your left side, put the treat under your knees from the right side and visa versa.  After a few times of doing this, he should begin to understand that his belly should be on the ground when you say “down.”

Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at and on Facebook.

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