Teaching a little puppy to lie down is much easier than teaching a big dog to lie down because this command puts the dog in a submissive, vulnerable position. For this reason, puppy or dog, begin this command at home, indoors. Ask your puppy to “Sit.” Now pat the floor, actually tap it and make a sound with your open hand, palm down and say “Down,” dropping your voice to give the puppy the low feeling of the exercise.
Some puppies, young ones in particular, will simply lie down to sniff your hand. If yours does, praise him and pet him so that he relates good feelings to lying down when told. If he looks at your hand but does not lie down, place your other hand behind his forelegs and draw the legs gently forward, repeating “Down, Good Puppy.” Pat him as he stays lying down.
When your puppy seems steady or comfortable, tell him “Stay” and get up and back up a foot or so. Break him with “OK” and praise him warmly. Repeat up to four times the first day. Continue to practice the “Down,Stay,” adding it to your regular twice-a-day training routine and shuffling it in with “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Come.”
When working indoors on the “Down,” you will probably not need the leash. But if you do, use it. The leash may make your puppy feel more serious. Put it on and let it hang or hold it, whatever works for you. When you say “Stay” and back up, you can pick up the leash handle and take it with you. Your puppy may work better on leash. However, when you begin to practice “Down” outside, the puppy must be on leash so he will not run away or just fool around. But don’t start doing “Down” outdoors until he is very comfortable doing it on his own inside. When he is lying down most of the time without the physical assist of pulling his legs forward, you can try the exercise outside.
He may not want to lie down outside on the first few tries. Assist him and then make your “Stays” brief until he gets used to doing this command anywhere with relative ease. Start to increase the time of the “Down, Stay” indoors. Have the “Stay” last five minutes, then one minute, then ten minutes. Do not break the dog because you see he is starting to get restless or starting to get up. He will know that he is controlling the training if you do break him on his clues, so decide ahead of time the length of the “Stay” and stick to it!
If he gets tired or bored, he can fall asleep. In fact, many puppies do. Wake him by gently tapping your foot on the floor. In other words, wake him but do not startle him. In this way, he’ll open his eyes but stay on command. Then you can break him with “OK” and praise him when he gets up.