Fact checked by a Hello Ralphie expert veterinarian
While teaching your furry friend to lay down on command may just seem like a fun trick, it’s actually an important trained skill that can help keep your pet both calm and safe. A dog that’s laying down is far less likely to bolt and jump up, which can come in handy when you’re answering the door, sitting outside of a restaurant, or hosting guests.
When to Teach the ‘Lay Down’ Command
While puppies have short attention spans, they’re capable of learning basic commands like “sit,” “lay down,” and “stay,” at a very young age. Many trainers successfully teach dogs the basics when they’re as young as 8-10 weeks old. However, more complex training usually begins at a slightly older age.
Teach ‘Sit’ and ‘Lay Down’ in the Order You Prefer
It’s a matter of personal preference on which order you teach the “sit” and “lay down” commands. However, most owners and trainers will start by teaching their dog how to sit since it involves less movement. Learning how to lay down is straightforward once they’ve mastered the “sit” command.
But the order is up to the individual, so we’ll explain how to teach a dog to lay down if they don’t already know how to sit on command.
Understand that the training process will rely on building a foundation of positive reinforcement, rather than punishment.
Positivity and Patience are Essential
Be prepared to be patient, positive, and realistic, as you’re most likely dealing with a young puppy. Punishment and frustration can confuse a dog and make them unsure about what’s being asked.
For dogs, especially when they’re young, reinforcement in the form of a reward usually works best. Think healthy and desirable treats, such as small pieces of apple or sweet potato.
Reward your dog with a mixture of praise and a treat if they perform a task successfully. If you’re not planning on using treats, give them their favorite toy as a reward.
Keep Things Brief
Due to puppies’ short attention spans, training sessions should be limited to 5-15 minutes. Always make sure you end things on a positive note, even if the session wasn’t successful.
If the dog is struggling to learn how to lay down, you can end the training session by going over something they already understand, offering praise and reward when they accomplish that task. Again, positive reinforcement is key. A happy dog is always going to respond better to training than one that’s scared, nervous, or confused. You also want them to be excited and enthusiastic during the next training session.
Teaching a Dog to Lay Down from a Standing Position
If you’ve already taught your dog how to sit on command, you can start teaching them how to lay down from that position. Otherwise, the dog should be standing on all four legs when you begin.
Step 1 – Visibly have a small treat in your hand (between your thumb and index finger works well).
Step 2 – Hold the treat close to the dog’s nose, so they can get a good sniff of it. This will let the dog know you have something tasty, which should get their full attention.
Step 3 – With a straight arm, slowly move the treat from the dog’s nose down to the floor in front of them. You’re using the treat to draw a diagonal line between the dog’s nose and where their front paws would be if they were laying down.
Step 4 – When the dog’s nose follows your hand, clearly say “lay down.” If the dog is following properly, they’ll bend their front legs so their nose can follow the treat to the ground. Keep your hand still and don’t release the treat until the dog’s back end has also dropped to the floor.
Step 5 – After the dog’s hind legs and rear have hit the ground, say something reassuring, like “good dog.” Then release the treat if they’re still laying down.
Step 6 – Repeat the process several times, giving the dog praise and a treat each time they complete everything correctly.
Step 7 – When you notice the dog is moving through the motions smoothly, you can begin reducing the hand motion. Teaching the dog to follow the command with only a verbal cue is the ultimate goal, so cutting back on the visual hand gesture should be the final step.
Don’t worry if it takes several sessions for the dog to learn how to sit on command. The important thing is that they’re learning in a positive and supportive environment. If you have more pet training questions, a Hello Ralphie vet is standing by.
[…] One very important tip is to make sure that during the training everyone in the house is on the same page with rules to be established. One household member allowing the puppy to jump on them, while another telling them “no!”, sets up a confusing time for the puppy. Read tips on teaching your puppy to lay down. […]
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