Downing your dog without food in your hand is another transition from lure to reward. By making this transition, your dog won't be dependent on seeing the food first before obeying.
Warm him up by asking him to down a few times with food in your hand. Remember, you are not asking him to stay at this point. When he is downing well with the food, try one without. Have a treat in the nonsignal hand behind your back. Simply make the exact same hand movement you made when you had food. You can give a verbal command at the same time. As soon as his elbows touch the ground, bring out the treat from behind your back and give it to him.
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Fundamentals of Dog and Puppy Training. Although dogs shouldn't be attributed with having human characteristics, they are intelligent enough to be able to understand the concept of, and execute, certain actions that their owners require of them - if these actions are asked in a way that dogs find rewarding.