How to Teach A Dog to Lie Down


This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons).

Once your dog has mastered the sit, it is time to move on to another useful basic command. Being able to ask your dog to lie down is useful in many situations and also acts as a stepping stone for other commands like roll over.

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Step 1 - Understand How Dog Training Works

Dogs learn just like humans, by trial and error. Their learning goes on whether we are actively teaching them or not. Dogs learn in 2 main ways - through classical conditioning, or operant conditioning.

When we are training our dogs to perform certain behaviours or tricks, we are using operant conditioning. This is where we pair the appropriate behaviour with a reward, which makes the behaviour more likely to happen the next time. If used correctly through positive reinforcement, operant conditioning can create a wonderful bond between you and your dog, and is so beneficial for their mental health and enrichment. Dogs will naturally seek to perform behaviours that have brought positive consequences, and will try to avoid behaviours that have brought negative consequences in the past.

Step 2 - Gear Up with the Right Dog Training Equipment

Before you start training, it's important to have the right tools to make your dog's learning a success. Everyone who will be involved in training your dog should use consistent techniques to help your dog learn quickly and effectively.

'Luring' and 'capturing' are 2 important words in dog training. 'Luring' means to guide your dog to perform a behaviour by using a tasty treat in front of his nose to get him to move his body into the correct position. The 'lure' is the treat. Capturing the behaviour means that you let your dog know that they've performed the correct behaviour the moment that it occurs. This can be through the use of a specific word or phrase, like 'yes' or 'good boy', or a clicker. This is then followed up by giving your dog the treat. The specific word, phrase or clicker becomes the 'bridge' between behaviour and reward, and becomes an indication to your dog to expect a reward.

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Best Dog Training Treats

There are a wide variety of treats available, but for every day training, we recommend choosing a treat that's soft and easily broken up into small pieces for a bite sized reward.

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Step 3 - Decide on a Command Word

Decide on what command you would like to use when asking your dog to lie down. Most people will use either 'drop' or 'down.' To avoid confusion be sure that you don't use your chosen word in another situation, for example if you wanted your dog to drop a toy or get down off the couch.

Step 4 - Lure and Capture

Hold a tasty treat in your hand so your dog can see it. Very very slowly lure him down towards the floor, as your dog follows the treat he should drop towards the ground. As soon as his belly touches the ground capture the behaviour with the clicker or a 'yes!' and reward him with the treat.

If you are having trouble getting him to drop his belly right on to the floor, you can try moving the treat out along the floor in an L-shape. Alternatively you can move the treat towards his body in a reverse L-shape to gently cause him to overbalance and drop to the floor.

Step 5 - Practise and Fade the Lure

Repeat step 3 until your dog readily drops in response to the luring hand gesture. Once you have achieved this you can begin to add in your chosen command word while you are asking for the behaviour. Continue to practice using both the luring gesture and command word to begin with, gradually over time you will be able to remove the gesture altogether and just use the verbal command.

Further Reading

New Puppy Guide

Teaching Your Dog to Stay

Teaching Your Dog to Shake

Teaching Your Dog to Roll Over

Training Your Puppy to Walk on a Lead

Puppy Training Guide

Flea, Tick and Worm Prevention for Dogs