By Celebrity Dog Trainer, Joel Silverman
Although I consider the “Lie Down” behavior more of an intermediate behavior, I recommend my clients teach the behavior as soon as possible. One of the reasons for this is that a dog lying down is a very neutral and relaxed position, and it is certainly a more relaxed position than a dog sitting. This can play a huge role when it comes to working together with other dogs in training classes and learning to desensitize the dog to people, places, and things. It’s also great when the time the dog has to stay in one place is increased to three and four minutes.
Because there is a lot to teach in this behavior, we are going to focus on the beginning of the behavior or Phase 1. Before you teach this behavior, you want to make sure your dog knows how to “sit” first. The reason for this is that we begin to start off teaching this behavior in a sitting position. The first thing you want to do is make sure you use some high value treat that your dog likes, and the second thing is to make sure that you always teach this with your dog on the leash.
– Starting off with your dog on the ground in the sitting position with the leash attached, you want to kneel down directly in front of the dog.
– I like to keep one hand on the leash, or start off with my left hand just resting on the dog’s shoulder blades. This would be the area on his back where his two front legs are directly below when he is standing.
– With your right hand, take a treat and place it somewhere between your dog’s nose and the ground and let the dog take it. Make sure that the treat is directly under your dog’s nose.
– As your dog gets used to taking the treat, begin to move it down a bit lower towards the ground, still keeping your left hand on your dog’s shoulder blades or holding the leash.
– Once your dog gets used to that, hold the treat between your thumb and first two fingers as the back of your hand rests on the ground, so that your dog sees the treat. Again, make sure your left hand is still touching his shoulder blades or you are holding the leash.
– Once your dog starts to get used to taking the treat, begin to slowly slide your hand on the ground towards you an inch or so. In order to take the treat, most dogs are going to need to lie down (if your dog gets up from the sitting position, simply have him sit before you begin again). You also want to start saying the word “Lie down” as you start this sequence.
– Once your dog lies down, reward your dog, and say the word “stay”, and reward him again. Then immediately release him.
This is the way you want to start this behavior, and you are going to want to repeat this with two to three minutes sessions five or six times a day. I have found in dog training with a number of behaviors, if the foundation is not strong, the behavior crumbles. By starting off this way and having some control, and you releasing the dog, you are going to find that you will have a lot of great success with this behavior.
Joel Silverman has trained animals for Hollywood films, TV, amusement parks, and he now devotes his forty years of professional experience to helping thousands of pet owners train their dogs. Joel has worked behind the scenes on lots of shows and films, but he’s best known for Good Dog U—his top-rated Animal Planet series that ran from 1999 to 2009. Joel has also authored three books to share his expertise: What Color Is Your Dog?®, Take 2 – Training Solutions for Rescued Dogs, and Bond With Your Heart; Train With Your Brain®.