- Harness the irresistible power of dog treats — Entice your dog with small, bite-sized treats or treats designed specifically for obedience training.
- Focus on creating an “L” shape — Start by holding a treat in front of your dog’s nose, move your hand toward the floor, and then toward you to guide their belly to the floor.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. — Like with any obedience training, patience is key, and practice makes perfect. Be sure to repeat each training step before moving forward.
Teaching a dog to lie down is part of dog training 101. You can use this obedience command to detract from unwanted behaviors like jumping on visitors or furniture or getting tangled between your legs while you’re cooking up a hot meal in the kitchen.
Whether you just brought home a new puppy or have an older dog in need of a refresher, the good news is that teaching a dog to lie down on command can be accomplished with ease with the right information.
How to teach your dog to lie down
Any dog can easily learn this basic but helpful command. Here are 8 quick steps to get your pup going.
Step 1: Lure your dog with treats
To start, lure your dog toward you with tempting treats. You’ll want to use small, bite-sized treats or use prepackaged training rewards treats designed specifically for obedience training. If your dog isn’t motivated by treats, you might consider luring them using the same tactics, but with a favorite toy instead.
Step 2: Guide them downward
While your dog is sitting, hold the treat in front of their nose with one hand to get their attention, then slowly move the treat-filled hand downward toward the floor and away from your puppy, forming an invisible “L” shape. This motion will teach them to maintain contact and follow your lead.
If your dog has not yet learned to sit on cue, you can either train them to lie down from a standing position and focus on the “L” shape technique or first teach them to sit using the steps outlined below.
Step 3: Reward your dog when down
As soon as your dog’s belly touches the ground, use your hand to reward them with the treat, praising your pup as you do with a verbal command like “yes!” or a click if you are training with a clicker.
Step 4: Repeat until seamless
Repeat this basic treat-based sit-to-lie exercise until your puppy can easily follow your lead without being distracted.
Step 5: Switch it up with a treat in both hands
Once your dog has mastered the above exercise without being distracted, get them back into a seated position. This time, let them see the lured treat in one hand but keep another treat hidden in your other hand. Make the “L” shape, and once your dog’s belly touches the ground, use the non-lure hand to reward them. Repeat until this, too, begins to feel too easy.
Step 6: Now lure your pup with an empty hand
Don’t worry, your dog will eventually forgive you for this! Now that they’ve made it this far, get the puppy back into a seated position and lure them downward, into the same “L” shape, with an empty hand and lots of praise. Once your dog’s belly touches the ground, you can reward them with a treat you kept hidden in your other hand or simply pull a few out of your pocket.
Congratulations! You’ve now taught your dog to go from sitting to lying down using a hand signal. Repeat until your dog masters this step.
Step 7: Make it a habit to reward every “down”
If you see your puppy lie down on their own, make it a habit of capturing this moment and rewarding them with praise or treats. Your pup will eventually learn to get into the “down” position whenever they’re near you, eager for a reward.
Step 8: Time to add a verbal cue
Once your dog has no problem responding to a hand signal, add a simple verbal cue like “down” just before you make the hand signal. Repeat until your dog can complete the sit-to-lie exercise using the verbal cue and hand signal, then repeat with the verbal cue alone. The goal is to train your dog to respond right away to the verbal cue every time going forward.
Tips for teaching your dog to lie down
Dogs typically enjoy being trained or tasked with a job. However, learning “down” can be challenging for dogs that are high-energy or hyperactive, or dogs that simply find it hard to absorb new information. Every dog is unique, but here are some tips to help your training.
Don’t force them into position — As tempting as it may be to “show” your dog how to maneuver themselves into “down,” your attempts may actually encourage them to resist pressure and do the opposite. Forcing them to do anything at all can also make them fearful of you, and your goal should always be to train your dog to be more confident .
Train when your puppy is tired — You’ve probably heard people say a tired dog is a good dog. And that may be especially true when training. If your dog is full of energy, they’re more likely to be distracted and irritable. Before working on any training, consider a long walk or romp in the yard to tire them out.
Consider clicker training — Some dog owners and trainers swear by clicker training, a form of positive reinforcement dog training in which the clicker serves as a marker of desired behavior.
Be patient — Training a dog can be exhausting and repetitive, but patience is necessary to ensure your dog ends each training session more confident and knowledgeable.
Ensure the surface they lie on is comfortable — If you’re repeatedly training your dog to lie down on an uncomfortable surface, like hot concrete, cold bathroom tile or even wet grass, consider practicing somewhere more pleasant.
Keep an eye on potential joint pain — If you notice discomfort or resistance to fully laying down, talk to your veterinarian about potential signs of common joint problems in dogs, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia.
Training a dog to lie or perform any other basic obedience command can be time-consuming, but worth it. Not only does it make your life easier once learned, but training also strengthens your bond, keeps your dog from getting bored or into trouble, and sets your dog up for success.
Frequently asked questions
How do you train your dog to lay down?
To train a dog to lie down, start with them in a sitting or standing position. Lure them downward with a treat in one hand in front of their nose as you create an invisible “L” shape, moving your hand toward the floor directly beneath their nose, then toward you. Once their belly touches the floor, reward them with the treat and praise. Repeat this until your dog perfects it, then switch things up by removing treats, only using hand signals, then adding a simple verbal cue like the word “down.”
How long does it take for a dog to learn to lay down?
Every dog is unique in how they learn and how quickly they learn, but most dogs should be able to learn to lie down within a few 10-minute training sessions. Don’t be overwhelmed if it takes a few extra sessions to perfect a command. Patience is key, and your pup will get there eventually with persistence.
Why won’t my dog learn to lie down?
There are many reasons why your dog might be struggling to learn to lie down. First, be sure you’re patiently following the recommended training steps. You should also ensure your dog is well-exercised, tired, and comfortable. Ask your vet if you suspect they are resistant to lying down due to joint pain.
How do you teach a dog an “off” command?
You can teach your dog the “off” command by redirecting them to lie down or sit using the steps outlined in this article.