Problem teaching "Down" command

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randysmom
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Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by randysmom » Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:01 am

My 11 month old sheltie has a problem doing a "down" on verbal command. In training since September, he has still only done three "downs" off a verbal command. Otherwise it takes a lure to get him down. He simply doesn't want to do a "down". He will do other commands like Sit, Stay, and he heels fairly well. The first training class was at Petsmart. They taught only with the lure. The basic down of: dog sitting-lure in front of nose-slowly move hand downward in front of dogs nose and make an "L" shape. My guy follows the lure down. At first he would then pop right back up.

Second training class at different location. They taught the down as follows: Initially have dog sitting. Reach over dog placing left hand behind his left front leg and right hand behind right front leg. Gently lift legs up and forward as dog lowers to ground. This worked in getting him to actually stay down when I put him there but he still would not go down on command. Second stage of down was taught as follows: Put two fingers of left hand underneath collar while holding lure in right hand. Gently put pressure downward on collar while luring dog down with treat. Gradually fade the lure and only use collar pressure. This worked for a while but now when he sees my hand coming toward his collar when we are training the down, he pops up. He never has liked the collar pressure.

So nothing has worked. When I give him the down command, he will look up, down, around, anywhere but at me. I am fairly sure he knows what the word means because he has done three downs for me on verbal command. Just don't know how to get over this hump.

Kim & Casey

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Nettle
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by Nettle » Thu Mar 20, 2014 8:33 am

Is it absolutely vital that he goes into a 'down'? If he doesn't like it, why not forget about it? Find some mind work to do with him instead (see our pinned thread) and do things that he enjoys. :)

There can be so many reasons for a dog not wanting to go 'down' from pain somewhere to fear of being down instead of being able to run away, fearing something he doesn't like being done to him while he is down (not saying you have done anything - this only has to happen once to poison the whole command) to the surface you want him to 'down' on being uncomfortable - so many more reasons - but he is telling you he doesn't want to.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

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mansbestfriend
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by mansbestfriend » Thu Mar 20, 2014 8:50 am

Hi. Sounds like you've been taught a horrible mixed bag of ideas for training a dog. There's absolutely no need to touch your dog, to teach a "Down" (or any other behaviour). Try kikopup on youtube, for vid tutorials using only concept/s of Positive Reinforcement. Keep practise fun without being too excited.

I would be careful of 'pushing' your dog if other training is going well. Has it had a vet check to rule out any medical issue/s with bones, joints, whatever? Some dogs physically cant do certain movements because of how they're 'built', or maybe it's favouring a tender spot. Cheers. :)
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Sit.

randysmom
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by randysmom » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:27 am

Guys,

It isn't absolutely vital he do a down, but I wanted to get his Canine Good Citizen title and maybe do Rally or Agility. I guess to me it is vitally important. To him, not so much. I have told him if we never get a down, then we just never get one, but we keep trying. He absolutely does not like me to use collar pressure. He doesn't snap at me. But I can see it in his eyes that it hurts his feelings. I can also sometimes see the wheels turning in his little mind, trying to decide if he should do the down or not. Sly little devil he is. I try to keep training fun for him. We're week two into another six week class. They use the Volhard method of training.

Ari_RR
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by Ari_RR » Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:30 am

randysmom wrote:I have told him if we never get a down, then we just never get one, but we keep trying.
Love the "I have told him"! What did he have to say to that? :lol: :lol:
Randysmom - you are all right!

gwd
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by gwd » Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:25 pm

I think it will be easier for you if you think of it in terms of dogs enjoy, and repeat behaviors that are highly rewarded. If he were my little dude, I'd get a handful of really high value, tasty tidbits that are pre-cut into tiny, pinky fingernail sized pieces.

Sit on the floor with your boy in front of you. It's easier for most dogs to start from the sit position but you will want to chance that up when he gets the idea. Lure him into a drop but don't stop the treats. Continue to do rapid fire treat delivery so that he's not tempted to pop back up. The treat should be delivered between his paws, on the ground. ..........get him to hold that (all the while getting treats) for 30 seconds or so. Then give him his release word .........but no treat. You don't want him to think that the reward was for popping up again.

Basically what you're doing is making staying down a very rewarding behavior. ..........this should all be happy and his choice. He'll figure out he can turn you into a pez dispenser by staying down............ when you can see that he's loving the down you can slow down your treat distribution and have more time between tasty tidbits.

When you notice he's really liking the game, do a drop from the standing position........ or do it with him along side of you rather than in front of you........

I think maybe you phased out food rewards too quickly and were not generous enough with the rewards.......... and pressure on the collar isn't something that dogs typically enjoy........ you want it to be something he willingly does.
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jacksdad
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by jacksdad » Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:38 pm

randysmom wrote:It isn't absolutely vital he do a down, but I wanted to get his Canine Good Citizen title and maybe do Rally or Agility. I guess to me it is vitally important.
Let me toss in my opinion...in a nut shell, slow down. you are bouncing from class to class looking for a fix to very possibly a non existent problem and by bouncing around using different methods you are probably confusing your dog.

First lets look at the classes.

First training class. nothing wrong with using a lure. but if not phased out at the right time your dog gets stuck on "needing" the lure to know what to do. Phased out too early, your dog gets confused what your asking for. either way, VERY fixable and your dog will enjoy the work if you are patient and work to improve your clarity in what you are asking.

Second training class. physically putting a dog into position is not training. while you didn't mean to, this class probably set you back on the "down" training as I suspect your dog either hadn't yet had his "ah ah, I get what you are asking" moment from the first class yet OR as nettle suggests there are other reasons that need to be explored.

Third training class. to be blunt, I get a little suspicious when someone markets a "method" that "they discovered/came up with". Most of the time this is a red flag about training methods and philosophy. I only took a quick peak at the "Volhard method of training" web sit and they do say things like "at the heart of the method is positive reinforcement" (paraphrased). but what about the rest of their method? what about their collar? what do they say about when a dog doesn't respond to a cue (sit, down, stay etc)? given the collar they market and at one of their articles, "A PERSONALITY PROFILE FOR YOUR DOG", which is full of errors in terms of sound behavior principles and understanding, but gives insight to their thinking; I personally would reconsider using their services.

So, where does this leave you?

I think your first class was on the right track. if you want a good resource for continuing on that path I strongly recommend this book "Train your dog like a Pro" by Jean Donaldson. It's not a flashy book, it doesn't have lots of "extras" such as choosing leashes/collars, toys, what to feed, how to care for your dog etc. What it does give you is easy to follow, understand and learn solid and sound instruction for how to train a dog. An important aspect of which is knowing when to "ask for more" from your dog, and Jean provides a really good way to measure progress. It also comes with a DVD so you can see Jean coaching students. which to me make the book worth twice what you will pay for it. I believe it's out of print so you probably don't want to delay buying if you want it. here is the amazon link.
http://www.amazon.com/Train-Your-Dog-Li ... like+a+pro

each dog learns at their own pace. for some dogs going into a down is SUPER easy to learn. Other dogs not so much, for whatever reason and it's not an indication of lower intelligence either. each dog is different. If a dog isn't performing as we want, we need to step back and ask why. being suborn, trying to be pack leader, not respecting you etc. sound good to some people, but are actually wholly insufficient in actually providing useable "data"/explanation for fixing the situation.

Why down may not be going as you want.

Down is a vulnerable position. if the dog isn't feeling safe, secure and relaxed, probably not going to be all that willing to go into a down. this isn't being suborn, defiant etc, it is simply wanting to feel safe.

Depending on the dog's physical make up, the surface the dog is being asked to go into a "down" on may not be comfortable. is it cold, rough, wet, etc.

Physical Discomfort. if a dog has an injury, is old, has arthritis (typically this is in older dogs, but can show up in younger dogs from time to time) etc this can also affect a willingness to go into a down. some dogs natural body doesn't make "formal" down or sit a comfortable position to be in.

asking for too large a jump in criteria your dog hasn't trained for. When you ask a dog to sit, dog sits, but then bounces right back up. That is a dog that did what you asked. When you ask a dog to go into a down, dog goes into a down, but then bounces right back up. That is a dog that did what you asked. might not be what you wanted, but it IS what you asked.

IF you want your dog to say in a down until released, or be able to say in a down for 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes. those are all additional things you have to train for. down + duration is to the dog NOT automatically the same a simply performing a down.

Moving forward. Choose a method. I hope you choose true force/pain/fear free training. But you need to be consistent. changing up methods on your dog will cause confusion. Methods that use force/fear/pain can also cause your dog to resist training. food for thought. Then "slow down". dogs can't be expected to move at the pace we want or that the "book" says they should. Some things you will want to train will come quickly to your dog, some will take more work. until you start working with your dog you have no idea which will be which. training is a "game" of patience, not speed.

Assuming there are no health issues, there is no reason your dog can't/shouldn't learn to go into a down. HOWEVER is it critical he work on it right this "minute". No. Absolutely not. and sometimes it does REALLY help to take a break from something your dog is struggling with, give it a month or two break and then come back to it. There are plenty of other CGC skills your dog can work on in the mean time.

randysmom
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by randysmom » Thu Mar 20, 2014 1:57 pm

Thank you all so very much for your good advice & ideas. I probably should have given Casey a break before starting the Level II class. He does seem to enjoy most everything but the down. I don't think he has any physical problems. He has went down twice inside on living room rug and once outside on concrete surface. Hadn't thought about the surface issues. I am printing off all your responses and think we (I) need to slow down with him, especially with the down. Our instructor at Petsmart said some dogs just won't do a down. Maybe Casey is one of those but we will keep working and incorporate some of your suggestions.

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Wes
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by Wes » Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:42 pm

My older dog just received his CGC without having to go into a down. He'll do a "down" at home, but won't do it on any other surface other than carpet. I video taped this, showed it to the evaluator and explained he has bad arthritis in his hips. It takes a lot out of him to lay down and he typically won't get up unless he HAS to once he's down. She had me do a stand/stay and a sit/stay instead of down, understanding his physical limitations.

Don't force your pup. If he has pain, this can exacerbate the problem, and if he's uncomfortable/stressed/not getting it, you're only making it worse. Try and capture a down at home. When he's about to lay down, have treats/clicker ready and reward when he does it on his own.

mum24dog
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by mum24dog » Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:21 am

Wes wrote:Try and capture a down at home. When he's about to lay down, have treats/clicker ready and reward when he does it on his own.
This.
I'm not big on luring or anything that needs phasing out myself.
When my hound X was a pup we had some down issues so I went for a walk to have a think about another approach. I came back half an hour later and my 13 year old daughter had got it on cue by capturing a C/T. She'd spotted that if he jumped on the couch he lay down and worked from there. I was humbled but also proud that I had taught her so well.
At some point all dogs will lie down of their own volition, you just need to know when it is most like to happen and be ready for it.

jacksdad
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by jacksdad » Thu Mar 27, 2014 2:25 pm

mum24dog wrote:I'm not big on luring or anything that needs phasing out myself.
I would advice though that before you tell someone to not lure or that "its not the best way" or "not a personal preference" etc. that you be aware of your "audience".

Luring is a very easy starting point for most people and dogs. But moving away from a dependence on luring seems to be a natural progression as both human and dog bond and grow skills. Shaping and capturing both require skills sometimes beyond what a beginner can "handle".

For example, the human. their timing skills, ability to "see" behavior just a split second before it happens, being able to visualize the end result and the small steps to get there etc. all require developing skills the human many not have yet.

For example, the dog. in it's "prior life" a dog may have been punished for offering behavior or "straying" outside the lines so to speak, and capturing and shaping (more so shaping) require the dog feel safe to offer behavior.

So, do be careful about letting your personal preference or where you are in your own skill development cause you to forget that luring may be the right option still for others.

being skilled in all 3 options and being able to move between them is for sure a plus and gives you flexibility. I worked with a Yorkie that shaping and luring were not an option due to fear, had to use capturing. So don't take my comments to mean luring or bust, only to that you need to be flexible to the needs of the "client" verse a personal preference.

mum24dog
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by mum24dog » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:11 am

jacksdad wrote:
mum24dog wrote:I'm not big on luring or anything that needs phasing out myself.
I would advice though that before you tell someone to not lure or that "its not the best way" or "not a personal preference" etc. that you be aware of your "audience".

Luring is a very easy starting point for most people and dogs. But moving away from a dependence on luring seems to be a natural progression as both human and dog bond and grow skills. Shaping and capturing both require skills sometimes beyond what a beginner can "handle".

For example, the human. their timing skills, ability to "see" behavior just a split second before it happens, being able to visualize the end result and the small steps to get there etc. all require developing skills the human many not have yet.

For example, the dog. in it's "prior life" a dog may have been punished for offering behavior or "straying" outside the lines so to speak, and capturing and shaping (more so shaping) require the dog feel safe to offer behavior.

So, do be careful about letting your personal preference or where you are in your own skill development cause you to forget that luring may be the right option still for others.

being skilled in all 3 options and being able to move between them is for sure a plus and gives you flexibility. I worked with a Yorkie that shaping and luring were not an option due to fear, had to use capturing. So don't take my comments to mean luring or bust, only to that you need to be flexible to the needs of the "client" verse a personal preference.

No different from those who have recommended luring. Just a different approach, that's all. Nowhere have I told anyone not to lure, although fading out properly is a skill too many people lack.

Luring is in my tool box but I prefer to use it as little as possible myself, and the reason is because luring went so horribly wrong with my first dog, and I have seen too many novice trainers make the same mistakes since.

I make no apology for suggesting that a different approach could be potentially less risky. Luring is certainly an easily understood starting point, also easy to rely too much on it for too long.

But as you say, capturing and/or shaping are a different set of skills that also need to be developed.

jacksdad
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Re: Problem teaching "Down" command

Post by jacksdad » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:19 pm

mum24dog wrote: fading out properly is a skill too many people lack.
it is one that needs to be taught and learned like any other.

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