Saturday, April 9, 2011

Speaking Dog: The "Lie Down" Command

Among the most basic commands to teach your dog (sit, stay, lie down, come, leave it), the title for Most Essential has long been a point of contention among behaviorists, owners, and trainers. Personally, I believe "lie down" is most important. This post will discuss the significance of this particular command and include a general guideline for training your dog to execute it. Hope it helps! :)

But before we start, for those wondering why teaching Fido basic commands is important, the simple answer is this: Training him to understand and listen to commands is necessary in promoting not only obedience, but also good behavior. Moreover, it will guarantee his future safety. The process of learning these commands is also such a fun means of mental stimulation for your dog. This in turn translates into some awesome bonding time! Trust me--it's the best feeling when Leo learns something new. We both get so excited and happy when he figures out what he's supposed to do!! I've never seen Leo wag his tail so fast as when he learns a new trick.

"Lie Down" - It's Natural!

What makes "lie down" a basic command is the fact that the position itself occurs naturally and often for dogs, whether they're resting, napping, playing, or chewing on something like a rawhide. To me, "down" is most important because this is the position dogs assume when they submit to canines and humans alike. Having your dog obey this command in any environment or circumstance when you give it demonstrates and reinforces the pecking order you've established in your household (where you are the alpha and your dog, the beta). "Lie down" is particularly useful if, for some reason, your dog misbehaves in an environment outside of your home. Say he runs off to meet another dog he sees at the park despite your command to stay. After you catch up with him, tell him "NO" very firmly and rap him on the head once or twice. Then tell him to lie down. Once he does so, he is essentially submitting to you and thus reinforcing your place as head of the pack. These consistent little reminders regarding his subordinate position relative to yours will continue bolstering good behavior and obedience in the long run.

Think I'm cute? Check me out (more!) on my blog, Hints of Basil!

Bosom Buddies

Posin' Pretty

GESTURE AND ORAL COMMAND: Point to the ground and say "down."

**Note** It's best to attempt this command after your dog has had his daily amount of exercise. Excess energy can make this training session unproductive and frustrating.

$6/6oz at local petstores (not Petco or Petsmart)

To start, invest in some wet or stinky treats. The smell and taste of them will make your dog work harder to earn them. Zuke's Mini Naturals are pretty good, but a little pricey. Try food rolls for a better value.
  1. Cup the treat in your palm while pointing down towards the ground. Hold your hand in front of your dog's nose so that he can smell the treat and slowly move your hand toward the floor.
  2. His head will likely bend down, but his body won't hit the floor. Once this happens, gradually move your hand away from him and toward your body so that he has to reach. 
  3. Once his elbows and belly touch the ground, say "down." And PRAISE! Smile, use a higher pitched tone of voice, and give a good rub. And as ridiculous as it sounds, try not to praise him so much that it overexcites him, as this can lead to loss in concentration.  
  4. Don't be discouraged if you are initially unsuccessful. That's to be expected (it took Leo a while to get the hang of it). Keep a low and calm tone of voice, and repeat the initial steps. Try to keep frustration and disappointment out of your voice. Your puppy will only get confused, and you'll most likely have to deal with his heartbreakingly sad puppy eyes. If, after 10 minutes he still isn't getting it, take a break and try again after an hour or so.
  5. Practice this until your puppy can execute "down" three times in a row. Then it's recess and playtime! Forcing him to practice a command over and over after he's gotten it three times without mistake is unfair and comparable to exhaustive mental drilling. Don't overwork him.
  6. Practice daily!
Having trouble? If you find that your dog still does not understand what you are asking of him, try catching him while he's in his lie down position and say "down" while pointing to the ground. If he remains in that position, reward him with tons of praise and a treat. Do this a couple of times and after a while, he'll associate his position with your command. Then try steps 1-7 again!

Good luck, and have fun!! :)

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