The “down” cue is a useful tool to teach your dog for situations such as the vet examination table and to encourage calm behaviour.
Steps to teach the “Down” Cue
1. Gain your dog’s attention by letting them know you have treats.
2. Either from a standing or sitting position (depending on what is easier for your dog), hold a treat in front of their nose and slowly lower the treat, close to their chest and towards the floor aiming to land between their front paws.
3. As your dog’s stomach touches the floor, reward your dog with the treat and say your chosen word for this position such as “down” or “flat”. Bear in mind which other words you might use in situations such as when your puppy jumps up at you or jumps on the sofa. If you use “get down” or “down” for that, make sure you use a different word.
4. If your dog finds this difficult, and their bottom springs up when luring them into a down position, make sure you are not moving the treat too far away from them as this encourages the dog to move forwards. Move the treat downwards and towards them rather than at an angle. Alternatively if you are moving the treat too fast this can also encourage them to spring up. Try to move the treat very slowly.
5. Small breeds of dogs such as terriers can find this exercise difficult to do. An alternative way to teaching down is for you to sit on the floor with your legs bent upwards which make a tunnel for your dog to move through. Place a treat in front of your dog’s nose and lure them under your lowered legs to encourage them into a down position. Once their stomach is on the floor, lift your legs away whilst feeding treats and the dog should remain in the down position.
6. An alternative way is to “capture” the position. Whilst at home, always have some of your dog’s food and treats available to hand. Your dog will eventually spontaneously lie down when resting. Once they are in this position, reward your dog by throwing him a handful of food/treats and saying “down”. Only reward for this position for a few days and your dog will begin to realise that being in a down position pays off!