Teaching your dog to lie down is useful in everyday life for times when you want them to be still, e.g. when you're grooming or examining them, when visitors come to your house, or for times when you want to take your dog out to a restaurant with you.
It is a relatively easy behaviour to teach – as long as you have something that your dog likes, such as a treat or a toy. Remember, if treats are used, please remember to take them out of your dog’s daily food rations, and grade them according to your dog’s stage of learning, and/or the environment.
Steps to teaching your dog to lie down
- Choose a quiet place in your home to enable the dog to concentrate
- Start with the dog near to you and sitting facing you. You may consider using a lead for more control, if the dog is inclined to wander off
- Get the dog’s attention by using their name
- Make sure that you have something in your hand that the dog wants, such as a treat or toy, and place that hand just below your dog’s nose
- Move your hand slowly down to the floor in a straight line, so that your dog follows it with their nose - slowly move it along the floor away from them but make sure they are still following with their nose
- As soon as your dog lies down, they need rewarding for doing the right thing. Say ‘yes’, smile at them, praise them with your voice, stroke them, whilst also giving them the treat or a game with the toy
- Once your dog has the idea of lying down, when you move your hand down towards the floor luring them with the treat or toy – place your treat or toy in your other hand, but otherwise repeat everything you did before, so that they are learning to perform the behaviour on a hand signal alone
- Once the dog is reliably performing the down when you move your hand down to the floor, start using the word ‘down’, just before the hand movement, so the dog is learning to perform the behaviour on a verbal cue. After a few repetitions, begin to reduce the hand movement, so that the dog is learning to be able to perform the down just when you say the word ‘down’. Fade the hand signal out altogether by saying the word ‘down’ and just waiting a second for your dog to lie down. If they don't, they are not yet ready for the hand signal to be removed altogether, so be ready to back up the word ‘down’ with the hand signal, to ensure your dog still gets it right
- To teach the dog to stay lying down for longer - keep the smile and verbal praise going, but withhold the treat or toy for a second or two until you are ready, not forgetting the release word ‘yes’ as you give them. Don’t push your dog too far too fast, just a few seconds at a time – you don’t want them to get up before you are ready to release them
- To teach the dog to remain lying down when you are short distance away from them, start taking a step or two away from them, immediately returning to reward them in position
- To make it more difficult, start increasing the distractions around your dog or change your position in relation to your dog, or by asking them to sit when out in your garden or on a walk. You may have to go back to the beginning and re-teach with these changes
- To make the 'down' command really useful, re-teach in a variety of environments until the dog really gets the idea that the word ‘down’ means the same wherever they are, and that they should stay in the down position until released. You can really have some fun with this, with a bit of imagination, which will help your control when out in public and faced with other dogs and people
- Some dogs are more difficult to teach than others, because their bottoms pop up as their heads follow the treat down. Teach under a coffee table, or under your bent legs when sitting on the floor
Please note: there are many different ways to train your dog. This is just one method of teaching. If you are ever in doubt, please seek professional advice.
For more information and advice, you can find a puppy foundation course with The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme, browse our full list of The Kennel Club Accredited Instructors or find a dog training club near you.