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June 04, 2020
If you have a dog, then there should be no question about whether or not to train him. A dog that is well-trained is more likely to be happier and safer than an untrained canine. You don’t have to teach your dog to roll over or shake your hand, or other fun tricks, but you should consider teaching him the basics like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “lie down,” because these are considered essential behaviors to help your dog be well-mannered, calm, and a good companion.
If you’re out with your pup, teaching him how to “lie down,” or “settle,” is a great tool to help him feel at ease and remain calm. When you give him this command, it should convey to him that everything is okay and he can take it easy. There is no need for him to stay on high-alert or be anxious; basically, you’re telling him it’s okay to relax.
First, it’s important to teach your dog the “sit” command and make sure he can perform it consistently because sitting is the foundation for many other commands.
Have all of your tools prepared ahead of time, such as treats to use as rewards, a collar and leash if needed, and a clicker if you will be implementing clicker training. You’ll start by teaching your dog to “lie down” using a visual signal and eventually work your way up to teaching him a verbal cue for the behavior.
Here’s a closer look at each of the steps to train your dog to lie down:
The very first step is to have your dog perform the “sit” command. Once he is sitting, then you will give the signal to “lie down.”
Use a treat to help teach your pup the hand signal for “lie down.” Hold a treat directly in front of your pup’s nose and make sure you have her full attention.
Once your pup is focused on the treat, use a slow and steady motion to move the treat toward the floor. Your pup should follow the treat with her nose, causing her head to lower toward the ground. As your dog’s head gets closer to the ground, start to slowly pull the treat toward you so your pup starts to extend her whole body forward, eventually landing in a lying down position. The motion you perform becomes the hand signal for the command. It starts with your hand up in front of your pup, then in one motion, unbend your elbow to move your hand down toward your thigh.
As soon as your dog’s chest touches the floor, immediately give her a treat and shower her with praise so she understands what the desired behavior is. Positive reinforcement is a very effective way to teach your dog a variety of behaviors. If your pup starts to get up or lifts her bottom before she lies down, don’t punish her or get frustrated, simply stop, restart, and try again.
Once your pooch is consistently performing the “lie down” command when given the hand signal, start to add in the verbal cue. When you first show your pup the treat, firmly say her name followed by “lie down,” and proceed with the taught motion. Reward successes with praise and a treat, and continue to practice this way, eventually removing the hand signal from the process so your pup can consistently lie down from the verbal cue alone. Giving your dog both hand signals as well as verbal commands is very beneficial since you never know what sort of situation you might find yourself in with your pup. Your dog might not always be able to see you, or you might not be in a position where you can speak; having both methods in place is a double assurance that your pup will correctly perform the desired behavior on cue.
Okay, so your dog can lie down, but then what? How does she know when to get up? A release command comes in handy with behaviors like “stay” and “lie down.” It simply lets your pup know when it’s okay to get up and get on the move. You can teach your dog this behavior just as you would present other commands, using a hand signal and verbal cue. Say “release” and perform a swift hand motion, as if you are signaling “follow me,” and reward your dog as soon as she moves.
Performing behaviors on cue during a training session is one thing, but doing it in real life is another story. In real life, things happen; other dogs run by, people approach you to strike up a conversation, someone whizzes by on a bike, and a number of other distractions that can easily break your pup’s focus. Therefore, once your dog understands the “lie down” command, it’s important to do what is known as proofing the behavior. Basically, you’re going to purposely add in distractions, one at a time, to help your dog perform the requested commands despite any other tempting events that might be happening around her.
Keep in mind that practice makes perfect! Even when your dog can “lie down” on cue all of the time, it’s important to regularly give her the command so it can stay fresh in her mind. You don’t need to drill it constantly, initial training sessions to teach a command should be kept short and sweet to maintain your pup’s focus; think 5 to 10 minutes a few times a week. Then, you can just make sure to regularly give her the command during your daily activities and she’ll be a pro.
Follow these tips to get the most out of your dog training sessions:
January 25, 2023