At Doggy Business this month, we’re going to be working on the basic skill of teaching the dogs to lay down on cue. For some of the play group dogs this is a new skill, and for them we’ll teach this just as we would in our Basic Manners or Puppy Kindergarten classes. We start with the dog in a sit or stand position. With a treat in our hand, we lure the dog’s head down to the ground until they put both elbows on the ground, while keeping their butt down as well. Once we get that position with the food lure, we give them the treat. After the dogs can comfortably move from a sit or a stand position to this new down position, we then phase out the use of the food lure while continuing to use the same hand motion. That way the dogs still follow our hands down to the ground, even though there’s no food in our hands anymore. If you have any questions about the specifics of this process, let us know and we can give you the details.
Many of the dogs in the Doggy Business play groups already have a good down with a verbal cue. In other words, when we say the word “down” they lay down in front of us most of the time, without us needing to repeat the word, use a hand signal, or lure the behavior. For these dogs, our goal this month will be to teach them that “down” means to lay down no matter where they are or what’s going on around them. This is an emergency down, and it’s an impressive and useful skill to have so that your dog can be safe no matter where they are, on or off-leash.
On the face of it, teaching a dog to lay down wherever they are when we say “down” may sound easy, but for many dogs the cue “down” means to come lay down directly in front of their owner. We want the dogs to learn that “down” means to lay down where they are, no matter how far away they are from us or how much fun their having with their buddies.
There are a lot of ways to teach an emergency down, and here’s the technique we’ll use in play group.
Call the dog to us from several feet away.
As they move towards us, we’ll say the word “down” while giving an exaggerated hand signal that’s a sweeping downward movement of our arm with the palm facing down towards the floor.
When the dog lays down (ideally 1-2 feet away from us), we quickly go to the dog and give them a treat.
Once the dog will reliably lay down 2-3 feet away from us we can introduce more distance by calling them when they are farther away from us, and repeating the process.
Once you teach an emergency down, it’s important to practice it regularly and always reinforce it with whatever your dog likes best, whether it’s a piece of yummy hot dog, a rousing game of tug, or return to play with other dogs.