I always intended to follow up with a tutorial for training down and finally, here it is. Training down can be a bit more difficult than sit. It can be especially difficult for small dogs to understand, and fearful dogs are sometimes reluctant. (I need to put something to together on that.)
Here is a video of me demonstrating training down.
Just like with sit, the lure for training down can be anything that your dog will follow, such as a piece of kibble or a toy. Although when training down a smaller reward such as a small piece of food does work best, since we really need the dog to follow the lure closely and a smaller target will work better.
When we finally get the dog to lie down, we mark that moment with our positive reward marker. I use the word “yes.”
Let’s review the steps for teaching
- Lure the behavior and mark the instant your dog performs it.
- When the behavior can be reliably lured, add the cue or “command” before the lure. With down I wait until I am standing up straight.
- Get rid of the lure as fast as possible. Continue to mark and reward the behavior, but only produce the reward after the behavior is performed. This is also after I am standing up straight.
- Once the behavior can be reliably acquired, stop marking (and rewarding) every instance. Reward at random or better yet, reward slightly better performance as you set it up.
Keep “raising the bar” with down by working in more distracting environments, and reward for results in them. At the same time, keeping using down in less distracting environments, but don’t reward for them. In this way you can gradually build better performance while keep the current level strong.
There are a few important concepts you need to always keep in mind:
Never introduce the cue (or “command”) until your dog has mastered the behavior. If you keep repeating the command when your dog is not responding, you weaken it. Dogs already have a hard time with
spoken language, don’t turn it into background noise!
Get rid of the lure right away. This is critical to avoiding “show me the money-itis.” A treat you have to show your dog before he does something is a bribe, not a lure.