“Lie down” is a command used in the informal level of control, to ask your dog to go into the down position. The dog’s posture may be quite relaxed. It is often used in the sense of the “Long Down”, which is an informal but highly practical Leadership Exercise in which you teach your dog to settle down for a longer time. This contrasts with “drop”, which is used in the formal level of control to mean “go down quickly and smartly”, before being given a command to move on. A more alert posture is generally preferred for drop, with some trainers specifically teaching their dogs to go into a “sphinx position” which allows the dog to move off quickly.
There are many ways to teach your dog to lie down.
Clicker training a down
Condition your dog to the clicker first, then start with the easiest behaviour, such as sitting or looking at you. When your dog has some experience of clicker training, you can teach the down.
“Capturing” is the technique whereby you click and reward your dog for spontaneously lying down. It may take a little time for the dog to catch on at first, especially an inexperienced dog. However, after a while your dog will start to lie down again after being rewarded and released. As soon as this is happening consistently, you can introduce a cue such as the words “lie down” just before your dog does it.
Luring a down
With your puppy sitting, hold the food right in front of your puppy’s nose and slowly move your hand down towards the ground. The idea is to attract your puppy’s head down, so that he or she lies down. Some dogs will do this immediately, others will take many attempts.
- Be careful not to move your hand too far away from your dog, as this will lure him or her forward to stand up.
- If your dog stand up, lure him or her back into a sit, then continue to try to attract the head downwards.
- Sometimes, you need to combine luring with a little shaping – reward your dog for lowering his or her head a shoulders a little bit, until gradually after a few attempts the front legs relax and your dog goes all the way down.
This just a beginning. Of course, there are further stages of training, such as introducing a cue (or voice command), and eliminating the need to have food in your hand.
As with sitting, I like to teach three aspects of lying down, namely
- that your dog goes into the down position,
- continues to lie down,
- and then does not get up until specifically released.
Each of these should be taught as a separate step in training. When your dog is going into the down position reliably, start to delay the reward for a few moments, and reward if your dog doesn’t get up. Gradually extend the time before you reward and release your dog. Use a specific release cue such as “up you get”. This is the beginning of building up to “The Long Down”.