0 Comments | Oct 14, 2011

Trouble With “Down”

Question: Hobbes (terrier mix) is having trouble understanding the “down” command; and is very resistant to even going into a “down to the floor” position; what would you recommend?  –Todd S.

Answer: It’s not unusual for small dogs to have a hard time with the down command. When everything already towers over you, getting even lower to the ground can be intimidating.  Patience and a calm, relaxed attitude is the first step. The more positive and engaged you are in the process, the more engaged your dog will be, and the less frustrating the process will be for both of you.

You might try giving him a rug or blanket to lie on, rather than a wood, tile, or linoleum floor, which can be colder and therefore uncomfortable to some dogs.

Tethering him, then luring him with a treat (that he really likes) just out of his reach can be helpful. Most dogs, when they realize the treat is so close but just out of reach, will lay down to stretch a bit farther. If he does, you say “down” as he’s moving into the down position, then give him the treat/praise.

Another thing to try is to get down on the floor with him, and, with your legs out and slightly bent in front of you, lure him under your legs. In order to get underneath, he will need to get onto his belly to crawl. As he moves to the down position, you say “down,” then praise and reward.

Another simple, but time consuming, way, is to sit or stand near him, with your foot on the leash, giving him a bit of room to move around but not to leave you. Then you just wait until he gets bored and decides to lay down. As he moves into the down, you say “down”, then praise and treat.

With all of these methods, the better your timing is (saying “down” as he’s moving into a down, rather than before or after) the faster the process will go. Also, the more patient you can be the better. He’s not being stubborn, he just doesn’t understand what you want. Giving him time to figure it out can be frustrating, but it is worth it.