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german shepherd lying down in front of owner

How to teach your dog to lie down

So it’s time to teach your dog to lie down? Find out how with our convenient, step-by-step guide.

The ‘down’ command has many uses. It’s a great way of keeping your dog calm when guests arrive, or if you’re out and about and they’re getting a little too excited.

Making your preparations

Before you commence with training, make sure you have everything you need. It’s helpful if your dog already knows the ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ commands before you begin teaching them to lie down.

You’ll also need a decent amount of space, enough free time for repetition and of course, plenty of tasty treats. Aim to keep sessions short, frequent bursts of training that last a few minutes are better than one half-hour session every few days.

Teach your dog to lie down, step by step

Lying down

Once you’re prepared, it’s time to get to work with your training.

  1. Get your dog into a sitting position. Place a treat tightly between your fingers and hold it up to their nose.
  2. Slowly move the treat to the floor directly beneath your dog’s chin, keeping it close to their nose as they follow your hand. They should follow the treat with their nose until they’re lying down.
  3. Once your dog is lying down, give them the treat and shower them with praise.
  4. Repeat this process a few times. As your dog begins to offer the behaviour quicker, start to introduce your cue word ‘Down’ as they lie down.

dog lying down on sand

Staying down

Once they’re happy lying down and following the ‘down’ command, you can begin teaching them to stay down. This is where already knowing the ‘stay’ command is a big help.

  1. When your dog is lying down, tell them to ‘stay’.
  2. Introduce a hand signal such as a flat palm facing downward, and show this to your dog for as long as they’re down – this will be useful when you’re in public, or without treats.
  3. Build up the length of time they’re expected to stay still before rewarding. Start off by moving back a few inches, then reward. Always throw/place the treat between their front feet to help reinforce the position. Keep going gradually until you’re able to step away from them entirely.
  4. Remain calm – an excited dog won’t lie still for long!
  5. Think of a command such as ‘Okay’ to use when it’s time to get back up again. When the time does come, use this command and reward them with praise and treats.

And of course, repetition is key. The more you practise, the more of an expert your furry friend will become.

And remember…

You may need to alter the process depending on your dog and their temperament. Don’t force training, and never scold or shout at your dog. Break the process down as much as you can, and reward good behaviour.

As your dog gets better at lying down, try practising it in different locations, this will get them used to doing it outside – where there are a world of distractions.

Need more info?

For more advice on how to train your dog to lie down, ask your vet to recommend a qualified behaviourist today. 

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.