Getting the dog down but not out

Your dog already knows how to lie down, but he needs to be taught to lie down on command. "Down" is the command used when you want your dog to lie down in place, right now, and stay there until you release him.

The following steps can help you teach this command to Buddy. If you've taught him the "Long Down," he'll quickly learn the command (see Chapter 2).

1. With your dog sitting at your left side and a treat in your right hand, put one or two fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, through his collar at the side of his neck.

Show him the treat and lower it straight down and in front of your dog as you apply gentle downward pressure on the collar, at the same time saying "Down."

2. When he lies down, give him the treat and praise him by telling him what a good puppy he is.

Keep your left hand in the collar and your right hand off your dog while telling him how clever he is so that he learns he's being praised for lying down. With a small dog, you may want to do this on a table. If Buddy is reluctant to cooperate, see Chapter 2 for physically placing him in the Down position.

3. Reverse the process by showing him a treat and bringing it up slightly above his head with upward pressure on the collar as you tell him to sit.

Practice having your dog lie down at your side five times in a row for five days, or until he does it on command with minimal pressure on the collar. Praise and reward with a treat every time.

4. Sit your dog at your left side and put two fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, through his collar at the side of his neck.

Keep your right hand with the treat at your right side.

5. Say "Down" and apply downward pressure on the collar.

When he lies down, praise and give him a treat every other time. Practice over the course of several days until he lies down on command without any pressure on the collar.

Make a game out of teaching your dog to lie down on command. Get him eager about a treat, and in an excited tone of voice say, "Down." Then give him his treat. After that, when he lies down on command, you can randomly reward him.

Although the Sit-Stay is used for relatively short periods, the Down-Stay is used for correspondingly longer periods. Traditionally, the Down-Stay is also taught as a safety exercise — to get Buddy to stop wherever he is and stay there. For example, Buddy finds himself on the other side of the road. He sees you and is just about to cross the road when a car comes. You need a way to get him to stay on the other side until the car has passed by.

The object of the Down-Stay command is to have your dog respond to your command whether he is up close or at a distance. Pointing to the ground won't work from a distance, so you need to train your dog to respond to an oral command. This is where the Down-Stay command comes in — the theory being that the dog is least likely to move in the Down position. Be that as it may, you'll find this command not that hard to teach, and you do want to be able to stop your dog in his tracks.

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