Francis Bacon once said, “Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed.” When it comes to training a dog, this saying is very wise indeed. Dogs, as a species, are accustomed to a hierarchy structure of command and leadership. That’s the way they naturally function and would continue to function if we had not domesticated them to be pets. So they are accustomed to a structure where everyone-or every dog-has his place in the pack-from the alpha leader to the bottom or omega dog. When you teach your dog the “down” technique, you are asserting your place as the alpha in the dog’s world.

When a dog has learned the down technique and rests in this position, you won’t have to worry about children getting bowled over or furniture getting jostled about. It also forms the building blocks for additional commands you may want to teach your dog-such as “sit,” “stay,” “roll over,” or even tricks.

You should use a straightforward approach to training a dog to obey the down command. First, watch for the dog’s natural transition into a down position. When a dog relaxes, he will naturally go from sitting to lying in the down position. You want to watch for that point when the dog is sitting and then starts to go into that position by himself.

When this happens, you want to speak a specific command and use a unique hand gesture simultaneously. This gesture should be something you would not normally do, so you must make a special effort to do it. Every single time the dog goes into this position, you should clearly issue the command and make that hand gesture. Always use the same tone of voice.

Of course, the dog is already on his way to going into the down position when you give the command, and initially he won’t know what you mean. But as soon as that down position is completed, you should lavish the dog with praise and attention. Over time and with specific repetition, the dog will learn to associate the praise with the words and action being completed. And you will associate the command with the positive behavior with the praise for the dog.

Initially, the dog will not likely perform as desired because he does not know what you want. It is important to be patient, clear, specific, and consistent. It also helps to do this when other people are not nearby and you have alone time with your pet and when there are few other distractions like noise and movement to divert the dog’s attention.

Positive behavior can also be encouraged by taking a treat or favorite toy and putting that item near the tip of the dog’s nose on the ground and then putting the dog into a sitting position. This is more likely to make the dog lie down by it.

After you’ve done this a few times, try using a hand movement where you hold your hand palm down and “wave” it down. Be careful to provide the praise or treat reinforcement only after the behavior you desire has been completed correctly. The reward is for the correct behavior. If the dog doesn’t understand initially, though, don’t get angry or frustrated.

Some dogs may also require the use of a collar and leash to help with the training session. For this purpose, use a very short-only 2 to 4 feet in length-leather or nylon leash on your dog. Place the dog in the sitting position. Then kneel down in front of the dog so you are facing him.

Now simultaneously make your distinct hand gesture and issue your voice command while moving the toy or treat from a position by the dog’s chin slowly bringing it down to the ground. At the same time, slowly and gently pull on the leash to encourage the dog to go down. Do not tug or pull at the leash or make this a negative experience for the dog in any way.

In those rare cases where your dog seems to have difficulty learning, try this. Face the dog at a bit of an angle and, while you are kneeling down, slip the loop of the leash under one or your feet and also slide the loop under the knee of the dog’s opposite leg. Now try issuing the command again, only this time, gently pull the leash loop with your foot and pull both of the dog’s front legs toward you gently, so he slides down into the down position.

Even if you had to initiate the movement to get the dog in the correct position, give the dog lots of praise and attention. The key here is that you want the dog to always associate good and positive feelings-both his and yours-with this position.

Find out about choosing the right Dog Bedding for your dog, and pick up more information, tips, and techniques like these from Ira Nelson who has nearly three decades of experience in the Dog Training field.

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