Are you the proud new owner of an adorable puppy?
Congratulations on your furry bundle of joy!
But owning a puppy means more than just cuddles and playtime – it also requires responsibility and patience in order to teach basic commands, such as how to lie down.
Teaching your new puppy this simple command helps build their obedience and trust while improving communication between the two of you.
The lie down command is one of the first basic obedience commands I taught my dogs.
The only command I taught them before lie down was the sit command, though the first thing I taught them was their names.
Lie down, similar to sit, is a relatively easy command to teach and has many uses in day to day life.
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How to teach a dog to lie down
I taught my dogs to lie down using the lure method of training.
This method of training means you lure your dog into doing what you want them to do with a treat or toy.
All you need to use the lure method of training is some treats your dog enjoys and some time.
If your dog isn’t very food motivated you can try using a favorite toy instead of the treat.
The important thing is to have something your dog wants.
After you have chosen your treats, you teach lie down by following these steps:
- Choose your location
- Have them sit
- Lure into a lie down position
- Capture the behavior
- Introduce a verbal cue
- Phase out the lure and add the hand signal
- Phase out the treats
- Practice in different environments
Choose your location
When training your puppy to lie down, choosing the right location is essential.
A suitable space can significantly impact your puppy’s ability to learn and focus during the training sessions.
Just like when you first taught your puppy how to sit, you want to choose a distraction free area.
Limiting distractions for your puppy makes it more likely that you will have a successful introduction to the new command.
For me, I chose the living room and just requested that my family be in another room or engaged in a quiet activity during training sessions.
Have them sit then lure to a lie down
Lie down is easiest to teach from a sit position.
If your dog doesn’t know the sit command, you should pause the training on lie down and start with training them to sit.
Once your puppy knows how to sit on command, have them sit and praise them.
Then with your dog in a sitting position, hold the food lure, or treat, in front of your dog’s nose.
Slowly lower your hand with the treat to the floor and slightly ahead of your dog.
Your puppy should follow the treat with their nose, naturally lowering their body into a down position.
As soon as they’re in the proper position, reward them with the treat and some praise.
Then give them the release word to signal that they can get up from the down position.
I use the cue word “okay” for releasing my dogs from their sit, down, and stay.
Make sure to use small training treats to keep your puppy’s attention without overfeeding them.
Repeat this process several times until your puppy consistently lies down when following the treat.
Capturing the behavior
Capturing the behavior isn’t its own step. This step should be done with the previous step.
As you lure your dog into the down position you want to mark the exact moment they get in that position.
As soon as their rear end is down say “Yes!” or something similar and give them the treat and some praise.
This helps your puppy connect that laying down is what you want them to do.
Practice luring into a down and capturing the behavior several times.
Introducing Verbal Cues
After your puppy has mastered lying down by following a treat and understands the verbal marker, it’s time to introduce the verbal cue.
First, you need to decide what you want the cue to be.
I personally just use the word “down” for lie down, but you can use whichever word or phrase you want.
Just be consistent.
Once you have chosen your command word, lure your dog into a lie down position while saying your command word.
Practice luring with the verbal cue several times.
Phasing out the lure and adding the hand signal
Once your puppy is reliably doing a lie down with the lure and verbal command, it’s time to phase out the lure.
To do this, start with the treat in the opposite hand from what you normally use to lure your dog with.
Lure with the empty hand, while giving the verbal cue, then give the treat with the other hand.
Then move slightly back from your dog and make the same motion as if you are luring your dog, but not right in front of them.
If your dog is able to do a lie down with this, stand up for the next lie down command.
While standing, use the same motion and hand shape, but don’t take your hand down to the floor.
Just move it enough for your dog to understand the cue.
Make sure to use the verbal cue every time you do this.
Once your dog is reliably doing a lie down like this, you can decide if you want to adjust your hand signal.
I point to my dog and then the floor for the down command.
So it looks like a fist with the pointer finger out and a downward movement so I end pointing at the floor.
Make sure to give your dog a treat every time they lie down to reinforce that they are doing what you want.
Once they are reliably lying down with the hand signal you want, you can move on to phasing out the treats.
Phasing out the treats
Once your puppy has the hang of the down command with the hand signal and the verbal cue, you can start phasing out treats.
Gradually phase out the treats by not treating every time, but the majority of the time.
Then slowly cut down on the treats until you are giving treats occasionally, but not very often.
As you cut down on the treats, make sure you are doing it randomly and not in a pattern.
Dogs are smart and will quickly pick up on any pattern that you use and may decide to not listen when they know they won’t get a treat.
Even though you are phasing out the treats, you still want to make sure to use verbal praise when your dog listens to you.
And never cut out the treats completely. Just cut them down to not very frequent during a training session.
Practice in different environments and distractions
Once your dog is reliably listening to the down cue with infrequent treats, it’s time to add in distractions and different locations to your training sessions.
To not overwhelm your dog, only change one thing at a time.
I find it easiest to start with adding distractions to the current training environment before changing the environment.
You may have to increase the frequency of treats when you first add a distraction. Otherwise, you may not be able to keep your dog’s attention.
Start with small distractions, like dropping a toy near your dog, and then increase the distraction, like throwing the toy a few feet away.
Then move up to another person walking through the room.
Once your dog is able to handle distractions in the current training environment, it’s time for a new environment.
When you change locations, start with the least distracting location, like another room in the house, before moving to more distracting locations, like the front door and then outside.
In each new location, keep the distractions minimal as the new sights around that location will be distracting enough.
Also, increase the treat frequency the first few times you practice in any new location.
Then cut down on treats and add in more distractions.
With every new distraction temporarily increase the treat frequency to help keep your dog’s attention on you.
If your dog frequently misses the cue and won’t lie down, cut back to a less distracting environment.
Practice more in the less distracting environment before trying the more distracting environment again.
Using just the verbal cue or the hand signal
Once your puppy is able to reliably do a lie down with the verbal cue and hand signal, you can start practicing using just one or the other.
To practice using just the verbal cue, say the command word without any hand signal and see if your dog responds.
If they don’t, go back to using both the verbal cue and hand signal together for a few more training sessions and try again.
If your dog responds to just the verbal cue, continue practicing until they consistently respond.
Then, you can try using just the hand signal without saying the verbal cue.
If they don’t respond then practice more with both the verbal cue and hand signal before trying again.
With both Luna and Morgan, it was easier to teach them to follow the hand cue by itself than the verbal cue.
Even now, several years after training them, they consistently listen to the hand signal by itself but occasionally “can’t hear” the verbal cue by itself.
Once your puppy is able to reliably do a lie down with either just the verbal cue or just the hand signal, you can start practicing using either one randomly.
This will help your dog understand that both the verbal cue and hand signal mean the same thing, and they should respond to either one.
Remember to always praise and reward your puppy for successfully responding to either the verbal cue or hand signal.
This will reinforce their understanding of these cues and encourage them to continue responding to them.
Practice in all different environments and with various distractions to ensure that your puppy can consistently respond to either cue no matter the situation.
It may take some time and patience, but with consistent practice and positive reinforcement, your puppy will become a pro at responding to both verbal cues and hand signals for the lie down command.
Keep up the good work and enjoy the bonding experience of training your puppy!
Lie down from standing
The easiest way to teach lie down from a standing position is to teach it after your dog has mastered lie down from a sitting position.
To teach this version of lie down, start by standing in front of your dog and giving the verbal cue for “lie down” while luring them with a treat all the way down to the floor.
Once they are lying down, give them lots of praise and treats.
Repeat this process multiple times until your dog is comfortably going from a standing position to a lie down on command.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best technique to get a puppy to lay down?
How can I teach my dog to lie down without using treats?
You can use praise and physical touch as positive reinforcement in place of treats.
Gradually guide your dog into the “down” position using your hands, and reward them with a pat and verbal praise.
Repeat the process several times to reinforce the command.
What hand signals can I use to teach my puppy to lie down?
A common hand signal for “lie down” is pointing your index finger downward and making a swooping motion towards the ground.
Combined with a verbal command such as “down,” this creates a clear and consistent signal for your dog.
How long does it typically take for a puppy to learn the lie down command?
It varies depending on the puppy, but with consistent training sessions and positive reinforcement, most puppies can learn the “lie down” command within a few weeks.
Remember to be patient, and break the training into short sessions of 10-15 minutes to ensure your puppy stays engaged and doesn’t become overwhelmed.
Can an older dog learn to lie down, and how should I teach them?
Absolutely! Dogs of any age, including adult dogs, can learn new commands and behaviors with proper training and consistency.
Follow the same steps outlined in this guide, but keep in mind that older dogs may take longer to pick up the command due to previous habits or behavior patterns.
Another thing to keep in mind when practicing obedience training with an older dog is that they may have a medical condition, like a joint issue, that can make some movements painful for them.