One of the most useful behaviors you can teach your dog is to lie down on cue.
Begin with your dog in the “sit” position. Put a treat to your dog’s nose, with your palm facing down, and slowly lure him down with the treat. The treat should be in front of his nose, moving straight down towards his front paws. Once his head is at his feet, slowly move the treat in front of him towards you. Some dogs may need to have the treat brought down in front of them and then around towards their shoulder, making a C curve. The turning of the head is sometimes the trick to getting the dog into the down position. As soon as the dog is down, mark the behavior with the word “Yes!” or a click from your clicker and treat.
Let the dog complete the task four or five times and then introduce the verbal cue – “down”. Eventually, you can introduce a hand signal as well. You can do this by starting with the food as a lure and then removing it once the dog has gone into a down at least five times.
Each day, practice in a new location and in a different position. If you can get your dog to lay down without bending over to lure them into place, you’re doing great! But if you can’t do that yet, that’s ok, too – it takes time!
We sometimes hear from dog owners that their dog knows a cue but won’t do it out of stubbornness. This is not the case! If your dog is not reliably performing a cue, they probably need more practice and positive reinforcement.