Downward Dog – The basics of teaching ‘down’

So, your pup has mastered ‘sit’? What’s the next best cue to add to their repertoire? ‘Down’ is a great extension to ‘sit’, as well as a stand-alone cue.

Practice Makes Perfect

When first introducing ‘down’, make sure you have your dog’s full attention. It’s great to useNational Service Dogs, NSD moments when your dog wants your attention for training opportunities, like during play or for affection.

Start by practicing in a low-distraction environment, like in a quiet room in your home. Once the dog responds and completes the ‘down’, reward that behaviour immediately! You can lure your dog using toys or food but once they reliably respond to the cue, fade the lure out so they don’t become dependent on it.

Making Targets

Make note of how your dog is performing in training sessions. If you know they can complete the cue five times before losing interest, try ending at four with a lot of praise and then increase gradually. This way they will stay engaged in training and you can also build the duration of your training sessions as your dog develops!

Remember to use the new cue in different and new situations. Using ‘down’ while at a park or at a pet store can help your dog observe their environment while in a calm position.

As a benchmark, by the time the puppy is four months old, use ‘down’ throughout the day, both in random moments and linking it to things they enjoy! If you started teaching this cue to an older dog give them about 2 months before you work it into their daily routine.

Be Flexible

While it’s easy to connect the ‘sit’ and ‘down’ commands in training sessions, it’s important to use down separately as well. This ensures that your dog will respond to the cue from any position.

You can vary training sessions by slowly building up the length of time of training sessions, the duration of holding the ‘down’ and the environment you train in. For example, you can practice this cue while out on a walk. Happy training!

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