So, you want to teach your puppy to lie down. Training your puppy to lie down on command may take a little more patience than simpler commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Since lying down and getting up is a particularly effortful activity, it may not be appropriate for large breeds such as Great Danes and older dogs who may have reduced mobility as a result of age.
Why it’s important to teach your puppy to lie down
The ‘down’ command can be useful in situations where you want your puppy to relax close to you or lie down on their bed when you’ve got company. It can also be helpful when you need your puppy to calm down, for example, if you’re in a public place. When lying down, your puppy is less likely to jump up or start making mischief!
What you’ll need to teach your puppy to lie down
- An appropriate space to work in
- Nutritionally-balanced treats
- To have taught your puppy the ‘sit’ command
Step-by-step guide: how to teach your puppy to lie down
Buy treats – Make sure you buy your puppy treats they really love. It is also helpful to make sure the treats are small and easily chewable. Larger treats that take a long time to chew may distract your puppy and disrupt the training process.
Ensure your puppy knows the sit command – Ensure that your puppy knows the sit command without having to use treats. Without the ‘sit’ command it will be very difficult to control your puppy well enough to teach them the more complex ‘down’ command. Learn more about the ‘sit’ command here.
Pick a location – To teach your puppy to lie down, it’s best to choose an area that is free from distractions. Going to a park full of dog walkers will present far too many distractions for you to be able to conduct effective training. If you have already used another area to successfully train your puppy how to sit, then it’s probably a good idea to use the same one to teach your puppy to lie down. Your puppy will be accustomed to this area and may even associate it with training and learning. Since some smaller dogs will be averse to lying down on a cold floor, it is best to choose a carpeted floor to train your puppy to lie down.
Command your puppy to sit – The first step of the process is simple. Simply kneel down and command your puppy to sit.
Hold a treat between your fingers – Once your puppy is comfortably sitting, it’s time to grab a treat from the bag. Hold the treat between your fingers in such a way that you can easily release it when required.
Move the treat to the ground – Move the treat to the ground and your puppy should lie down on their stomach. After they are lying on their stomach, open your hand and give them the treat. Once you give them the treat, praise your puppy by saying something like ‘good boy/girl’ and patting their head affectionately to show them you’re happy.
Use the ‘down’ command – To teach your puppy to lie down, they need to recognise a vocal command. Once your puppy is taking the treat, start saying ‘down’ as you move your hand down to the ground. Repeat this for 5-10 minutes or until your puppy gets tired or uninterested. Since all puppies are different, you may require more or fewer sessions to teach your puppy to lie down.
Practice the lie down hand signal – As you move the treat towards the ground, you should use a distinctive hand signal that is easily recognisable to your puppy. This is important because it means that even when you don’t have treats, your puppy will still know lie down.
Say ‘okay’ when you want your dog to get up – Once your dog is lying on the floor, you need to teach them to get up off the floor as well. The best way to do this is to say ‘okay’ when you want your dog to get up again, and encourage them to come to you.
Use various body positions – It’s also important that you don’t just practice the ‘down’ command from a kneeling position. In real life situations, you will want to command your puppy to lie down from various positions. For this reason, you need to practice this when training your puppy so they respond to the command regardless of the position you’re in.
Practice the command with less treats – As your puppy becomes more accustomed to the command, start practising with fewer treats. With enough time (this varies depending on your puppy’s character), your puppy will lie down when hearing the ‘down’ command and seeing the hand signal without needing treats as an incentive.
Well done! Both you and your puppy deserve a lot of praise. You have successfully taught your puppy how to lie down on command.