My dog stands up instead of lying down
- Train your dog on a sofa or a table and move your hand below the edge. So to see the food, your dog has to bend the neck or elbows.
- Have a leash attached to the collar and very gently pull indicating that this is the direction, you want your dog's body to go. Be very gentle, no tugging.
My dog doesn’t go down if there is no treat in my hand
Take a few treats in your hand and using the food as a lure, ask your dog to do their Down. When they succeed, treat them on the floor. Then ask them to do it again, have a food lure. Basically, do a series of puppy-push-ups where the food is consistently shown. Once the dog is doing the Sit/Down repeatedly without a moment's hesitation, then ask for the Down suddenly but without food in your hand. As soon as the dog lays, immediately pay them with a treat maybe from your other hand. What we're trying to do is get your dog into the habit of laying down right away, a few times in a row, seeing food, so then when there isn't food in your hand, the dog doesn't realize it until after he's done the Down but by the time he realizes, the pay is coming to him anyway.
The most common mistakes
Naming the cue too soon
Add a name to the cue only when you would bet money that your dog will perform the exercise immediately. Dogs do not understand English, and for them, it is just distracting noise. If you keep repeating the verbal cue “down” before your dog knows how to do it, the noise will only distract them from focusing on you. Your dog will also learn to associate the word with a half-finished version of the behavior, e.g., your dog will think that bending the neck or elbows means down.
Pushing your dog’s rear to help them
Although it is an “effective” and fast way to make your dog lay down, it doesn't really teach them the meaning of the cue. Your dog will start relying on your touch to know what they have to do. Besides, some dogs might get defensive or fearful if a stranger tries to put them into the position. Take the time, be patient, and your dog will get there.
Repeating the cue
Repeating a verbal cue like "down, Max down, DOWN," will decrease the dog's reliability by up to 25%. Avoid repeating verbal cues. Give a cue, and if the dog does not perform after hearing it, wait, or lure with a treat to the position. By repeating the cue, the dog learns they don't have to listen to the first cue, only when your voice gets slightly louder and tenser by the third time.
Using different words for the cue
Lay down, go down, down, floor, etc. - these are all different cues to your dog. They are no synonyms. Make sure you choose one word, and all family members use the same word consistently.
Alternative ways to perform the trick
If you followed the instructions in the app and they didn’t work, try this:
Lure to lay down under an obstacle
1. Take a low coffee table, a chair, or build an obstacle from a broom at home.
2. Have your dog on one side and you on another side.
3. Hold the hand close to the floor but far enough so the dog cannot take the treat just by stretching the neck. You can squeeze the treat between your fingers and hold your hand on the ground before you give it away. Most dogs will find it hard to have hind legs up for a long time. Immediately, the dog lays down, click or give a verbal marker and reward.
Capture the behavior
1. At home, put a leash on your dog. Engage in short cuddling or play sessions, then sit down to read a book. The leash stays under your foot.
2. The dog might stare at you, whine for attention or try to pull on a leash and walk away. Ignore the dog and keep reading.
3. Eventually, the dog will get bored and lay down.
4. Immediately, the dog takes the down position, say "yes" or press the clicker, and give a treat.
5. Stand up again, engage again with your dog, then go back to reading. Every time you repeat the exercise, it will take shorter for the dog to lay down.
Once you get a fast response, name the command just before your dog lays down, say "down."
Shape the behavior
If the above-mentioned exercise is not working and your dog takes longer to lay down, then you have time to read, try this shaping method:
1. Have the dog facing you. Hold the treat in front of the nose and move it a few inches toward the ground. When your dog bends the neck to take the treat, say "yes" or press the clicker and give the treat. Repeat the exercise a few times, so your dog bends the neck without backing away from you.
2. Keep moving the treat closer to the floor until your dog’s nose is touching the ground. When the nose touches the floor, press the clicker and give a treat. Make a few repetitions until your dog is confident in performing this step.
3. Now that you have your dog's nose touching the floor, move the treat away from the nose along the floor, toward you, a few inches. Press the clicker or give a verbal marker "yes" and give a treat when the dog follows the treat with the nose and stretches the neck towards you.
4. Gradually move the treat farther and farther away from the nose, close towards your feet. Don't forget to click and give a treat for every successful repetition.
5. If your dog stands up in between any steps, give a negative cue like "oops" or "ouch" and go to the previous step and make a few successful repetitions. Then move back to the step which your dog found challenging.
6. Eventually, move the treat slowly from the dog's nose to the ground, towards your feet and hold the treat in between the fingers, patiently waiting until your dog puts the whole body to the ground. Once your dog is successful, give a jackpot, throw a party, give lots of treats and praise.
Once your dog performs successfully, the following training sessions will become shorter. Remember, you are not adding the verbal cue "down" yet.