Dog Training a Reliable Down

Dog training in Santa Cruz County

Contact us: 831-359-6926

  Training a Reliable Down is a good thing to teach your dog. It’s a relaxing position for dogs and they naturally go into a slow down mode. Dogs will turn their hips into the ground when ready to relax. That’s always a good sign.  We know dogs go down all the time on their own so that’s not a problem. The issue is how do owners get their dogs in a down position on cue. Understanding  dog instincts and tendencies  help humans train them. It’s a simple matter of motivation and consequences.

  Dogs in general can usually be motivated to perform certain behaviors. The Motivation is usually something that benefits them. Whether it be toys, food, hugs, or released to retrieve a bird. There’s always a button to get dogs to comply. Training a Reliable Down is no different.  Dogs tendencies are  to repeat behaviors that work for them. If Consequences are constantly good a reliable behavior will be established.  k9362642

Teaching A Reliable Down

  Put a small treat in your fist and wave slowly under the dog’s nose. As soon as dog targets it slowly put your fist down on the floor. No words need to be said. Hopefully your dog will automatically drop to a down. If this is the case say “Good” ( Marker ) and give the treat. Repeat this procedure quite a few times watching to see if your dog is actually making a game out of it. This would be a good sign. While putting your fist on the floor remember to extent your arm out in front. This eventually will mimic the Down hand signal. Sometimes it takes a dog a few minutes to figure out how to open your hand and get the treat. The dog may paw at your hand, pace back and forth, whine, bark,  play bow, or nudge your hand with his nose. Whatever the case,  he only gets the treat when he goes down. Time and patience is needed at this stage.

  If things are going good you can have your dog practice going from a sit position to a down position and vice-versa. It’s always more difficult for a dog to go from a down to a sit so this little exercise will help. No verbal cues are given for this exercise. You will basically be luring your dog with a treat to sit and go down. It’s simply a sequence of sit – down – sit- down. You will be luring the dog to a down position using the previous instruction. When dog goes down Mark and Reward.  With treat in hand – target to dogs nose –  slowly raise hand putting dog in a sit position.  After each sit and down you will say “Good” ( mark) and reward.  Try to make the timing flow smoothly so the dog gets a nice rhythm. Plus remember your arm movement is the hand signals for sit and down. For sitting your palm will be facing up and for down your palm will be facing downward.

imagesCAKGNXKAUsing only a Hand Signal

  The next step is to use only the hand signal without putting fist on the floor. Let dog target the treat in hand.  While standing a few feet out, treat in hand, and arm angle at 90 degrees bring your arm straight down in front of you.  When dog drops down immediately say “Good” (Marker ) and reward. Repeat this procedure quite a few times. Hopefully your dog is playing the game well at this point. If you hit a snag go back to where the dog was performing well  ( fist on floor ) and work back up in difficulty.  If the dog is having problems a few things you can try is moving a step into the dog while giving the hand signal. Remember you’re at a safe distance from him so you have room to move in on him. If he gets it you can stop stepping in.  Another thing to try is being on your knees while giving the hand signal.  Small dogs have a reputation of having bad Downs. If it’s a small dog try training a Down on some steps. The object is to have them lean over the top ledge while looking down at the treat on the lower step.

 The next step is using a verbal cue

  With treat in hand – target under dogs nose – take a few steps back – say “Down”  a fraction of a second before you use the Down hand signal. Your arm can be raised in air at a 90 degrees angle as though your about to lower it. However, the verbal cue must always come first before the hand signal is lowered. If the verbal cue came after the hand signal it  would be blocked out with no meaning to the dog. Dogs are always anticipating pattern of events. That’s why it’s important to stay 1-2 steps ahead of a dogs movement. They are already anticipating something happening and ready to move at a moments notice.  In this exercise of learning a hand signal and a verbal cue the dog will eventually want to beat the hand signal at the sound of the word “Down“. It’s the dogs version of cutting corners of getting what they want sooner. In this case it’s their treats ( Reward ).  So don’t be surprised if your dog just starts flopping down quickly before you complete the hand signal. Repeat this procedure a few times.

  We will now use only the verbal cue

  With treat in hand – target under dogs nose – take a few steps back and say ” Down “. If dog goes down immediately say “Good” and reward. This is the best case scenario. If all is going well repeat this procedure quite a few times. If your dog is able to repeat this exercise with little or no mistakes they’re on the way to performing a nice down from here on.  If your dog does not perform immediately on cue give a ” No Reward Mark “.

   If dog fails immediately turn your back to him while saying ” To Bad” ( no reward mark ).  Ignore dog for a few seconds without looking at him.  The dog will be anticipating his reward. When he doesn’t receive it and gets ignored he will realize that’s not working for him.  After a few seconds give a second chance and repeat the verbal cue. If dog gives  a  positive response reward him. If he fails repeat the No Reward Mark. If things are hitting a wall go back to point in training where the dog was succeeding and work back up to the troubled spot.

  If all is going well to this point you can continue to practice the sequence of sit- down – sit – down.  However, at this point you will be giving the Verbal Cue and Hand Signal in a standing position.  Begin by giving your verbal cue, hand signal and rewarding. After a few repetitions begin to stagger the treats. The idea is to wean your dog off the steady flow of rewards. You may want to just reward the best looking or quickest sits and downs. You can start rewarding every other sit or down. Up to this point you’ve used the same target hand over and over. Now it’s time to change that by putting treats in your opposite hand.  Show dog  your signal hand is empty.  Immediately give hand signal for down and reinforce with treat from other hand.  The idea is to always give your dog different perceptions of things but still perform no matter what the circumstances are.imagesCA22O0KI

  Working with a dog that’s new at learning takes patience. Please take things slow and not over tax your dog to continually fail. This will only frustrate you and your dog. Training your dog in ten or fifteen minute increments a couple of times a day will surely be more productive.  Also start off in low distraction areas. Eventually you will have to start training in distraction areas when you feel comfortable. Happy training.

  At Giovannas Dog Training we offer Private Dog Training, Private Puppy Training, Dog Group Training, and Puppy Group Training.

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