Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

Teaching the 'down' cue takes a little patience, but is a valuable cue for your dog to know. Lying down and getting up again can be very strenuous for large breed dogs such as Mastiffs or Great Danes, and can even be challenging for older dogs, so do not overdo the down cue with certain large breeds or elderly dogs.

Down is a good position if you want your dog to settle close to you or lie on her bed if you have company or when you are eating. It is also useful if you want your dog to calm down in certain situations.

Training Technique:

  • Use a treat and ask your dog to sit
  • Place your hand, with the treat in it, palm down on the floor and let your dog sniff it, but do not let her have it. Do not give a cue yet or say anything at all.
  • Your dog will try and work out how she is going to get the treat from your hand. As soon as she lies down on her belly, give her the treat and praise her.
  • Repeat the same exercise several times: wait for the action, catch it, give her the treat, and praise her.
  • The next step is to put in the vocal cue and hand signal. As your dog is in the act of lying down, say 'down' and lower your hand, palm down, onto the floor. Repeat this 5-10 times.
  • Finally, ask your dog to 'down' using the vocal and hand signal before she has even started to lie down.
  • Release your dog by saying 'ok' when you want her to get up again.


Photo by J. Nichole Smith |

What Not to Do:

  • Never punish your dog for not understanding the cue. If your dog gets it wrong, say 'uh oh!' and repeat the exercise.

Problem: My dog will not lie down!

Solution: The hidden treat method does not work for every dog!

If your dog will not lay down using this method, try using a toy or something else that will motivate her. Some dogs do not feel comfortable lying down in certain environments, so be really aware of where you are first teaching this cue.

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2 thoughts on “Down

  1. user34603

    There is no mention of a dog that plays, chases, does other commands... but will not lie down even after 2 full days of no food at all. My foster dog for some reason will not even move toward a down, but will sit, here, wait, crate, heel, stop, back. I took 3 dogs through CGC certification and handled dozens in dog rescue at shelters and adoption stands. I'm not an unskilled amateur. This dog lies down in his crate on his own, but will not move toward down on command but will do the others. How about explaining that problem ?

  2. Melissa Nichols

    Did you ever get a down? I often ask people to start to mark/reward and say "good down" when they naturally do it so they have a better understanding of the cue paired with the behavior they do on their own to help.

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