In this segment of training tips I will offer helpful hints for teaching the down command. This command is a very useful tool in advance training and will also provide opportunities for human and K9 relationship as the down position serves as a submissive behavior to help establish leadership.
The down command is usually taught after the sit command. After your dog is in the sit position start by holding your dogs favorite lure (treat) in front of his nose. Allow them to sniff and try to get the lure and then lower the treat toward the ground towards their front paws. As they follow the treat, say the word YES and allow them to have it when their chin gets to the ground. Repeat 2 or 3 times, at this time you can add the word “down” as a verbal que at the same time you lower the lure to the ground. Next, take it down same as before giving the verbal que “down”, but don’t let them have it. This time move it away from them and be sure to keep the lure at ground level. If their rump comes off the floor and they leave the sit position move the lure back towards them and reinforce the sit command. Repeat this movement until your dog stays in the sit position. They will have to move their front paws forward in order to have access to the treat. Remember to reward any progress towards the down position by saying YES and giving the reward. This will signal to your dog that they are getting it right. After being rewarded for effort, withhold the reward in order to make additional progress before giving the reward. Continue in this manner until a complete down is achieved. If this does not achieve the desired results, you can try another method. Sit on the floor with your back against the wall and raise your knees up high enough for the dog to crawl on its belly to get underneath. Use your lure to encourage the dog to go under your knees. Remember to reward your dogs effort. Once they are under your knees say the word YES to acknowledge that they have gotten it right and give them the reward. Repeat this until you can move your legs to the side and your dog will go down. If this is not successful then go back to the previous step and repeat. I like to use the word YES as a marker to communicate when the dog has been successful and then reward them.
Once your dog is beginning to associate the word down with the action and you are able to stand in front of your dog, give the command and lure them in the down position, this way you can reduce giving a treat to every other time, then every 3rd time, and so on. Eventually place your hand out with all fingers extended and your palm down as a hand signal and give the verbal command for down.