Clicker Training Basic Commands – Down command

Clicker Training Basic Commands – Down command

By Peter Tyler

Now that you’ve achieved a reliable “sit”, its time to start on the “down” command.

Clicker Training – “Down” Command

Now, this won’t be quite as easy as sit, but have patience it will come!

A good, solid “down” command is a really important thing for dogs to learn – think about when you’re out on a walk and he sees a cat something equally as enticing. Imagine if, when he started racing over to whatever it is, you shouted “DOWN”, and he actually stopped in his tracks and lay down. It really is one of the most important commands that we can teach. (It’s also the start move for lots of fun tricks that we can try later!!)

Put your dog in the sit position and crouch in front of him, leaving enough space between you for him to lie down. Let him know that you have a treat, put it in front of his nose and move it slowly towards the floor. If you move it too fast, he’ll stand up, so have patience! He may try to get the treat out of your hand, but don’t let him have it yet!!

As you move the treat down, he should follow it with his nose.

When the treat and his nose are on the floor, move it slowly (remember, slowly, or he’ll try to stand up!!) away from him, towards you.

Although he may not lie down at this stage, he should be clicked and treated for lowering his body, which should happen naturally when he follows the treat with his nose, whilst in the sit position.

As with the sit, we need to build this behaviour up. Become more selective with clicking and treating, waiting until his body is much closer to the floor, and eventually only clicking when he is lying down.

When he is lying down with reasonable regularity, we should introduce the command “down” *. As with the sit, we need to build up to only clicking and treating when he lies down on the verbal command.

*NOTE: I do not use my dog’s name before giving the “down” command. I give this command firmly and quickly and expect an instant response. Don’t use “lie down”, as this takes longer to say and can’t be said with the same urgency as “down”.

Continue to train the “down” command, whilst standing up instead of crouching, like we were at the beginning of the training.

When you first started training the “down” command, you were putting him in the “sit” position first. You should move on to practicing the command “down” without first asking him to sit. He may be confused at first because it is different to how he first learned, but persevere and he will work it out!

A good training exercise when he is lying down reliably, is to train him with the clicker, but only click when he lies down very quickly. This should reinforce a stronger, quicker down.

You both deserve a pat on the back when he understands and follows the “down” command, so well done!!

Stephanie has written a series of articles on Clicker Training which are available at Kennel Corner.

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