Teaching Your Puppy “Down”

Teaching Your Puppy "Down"

As far as command position, “Down” is as low as you can get, and it is difficult for some puppies to accept. What is called the “dominant down”, a forced positioning of the puppy on his side with your hand on his neck/shoulder area; is restraint, not teaching.

If your puppy is off-the-wall rambunctious and you are losing control, the dominant down is one method of regaining it – but never in anger, always firmly but gently. The drawback is you can get yourself into a struggling wrestling match – and come out the loser. Placing your hands on the puppy’s shoulders and calmly saying “Settle” is a preferable, less combative method. Remember the rule to let a dog perform the desired action by himself.

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With your puppy doing a Sit-Stay, hold a treat in the fingers of your right hand (let him sniff it or see it), run that hand in front of his nose, down and out toward your feet. Be prepared to use your left hand on his shoulders only if necessary to guide him into the Down position, which is flat on his tummy with front legs flat out in front. Deliver the treat and a “Good down” and release.

When the puppy can do a Down all by himself in response to “Down,” you can skip the treat intermittently, begin to add a “Stay” and gradually – very gradually – work up to a Down of one minute. As he matures, he will be able to stay down for five minutes (or more if necessary), but even one minute is an eternity for an active pup, and you need to remain within a foot or two to start the exercise over again should he get up.

It cannot be emphasized enough: Go slowly – one step at a rime – in all puppy training. If he did it right the first time, chalk it up to beginner’s luck, both his and yours! Without steady repetition, he will forget it just as quickly. It takes the patient, consistent practice of each part of an exercise for the pup to learn that he must do it every time you tell him. If you go too fast, you will only confuse him.

And lastly, pronounce each word distinctly. “Sit,” “Stand” and “Stay” are easily blurred beyond the pup’s recognition. Put the “t” in “Sit.” Emphasize the “t” and “a” in “Stay” and put the “a-n-d” in “Stand.” Make “Down” an upbeat word, not a growl.