Pet Expressway for Dogs

How To Teach The Down Command

How To Teach The Down Command

There are a variety of ways to teach the dog training Down Command. We found that the following dog training method works best and it involves a few easy steps.

Step 1

Begin by having a treat in your Command Hand. Bring it to your dog’s nose to grab his attention.

Step 2

Next, gently place your free hand upon the dog’s upper back & never use force. Now give your dog the Sit command with the hand signal you learned previously, praise him for sitting but do not give him the treat just yet.

Step 3

Next, bring your command hand (with a treat) from the dog’s nose to his toes !!! as you say “Down “. You should perform this hand signal Straight down, just like an elevator, Nose to Toes. As the dog’s head follows your hand signal downward, once your command hand is by their toes (aka paws), slowly drag your hand along the ground away from the dog.  The dog will theoretically crawl after the treat and find himself in the down position. At which time you praise the dog and give him the treat while he is still laying down.


Things To Note

When teaching the dog training command down it is important to note that when you first start with this command we found that it works best to first place your dog in the sitting position. From a sitting position, your dog is already halfway in the down position. As he has already learned the sit command he is grounded mentally in a command he already knows. It becomes much easier for the dog to focus on what he is about to learn. Once the dog thoroughly understands the Down Command, it can then be instructed from your dog in a standing position.

In the early stages of teaching the Down command you can place your hand lightly on the dog’s back; a little below the hackles. Never use force to push a dog down as it would upset them. The purpose of this is not to push the dog down but to stop him from getting up as he learns the command. This is only a temporary measure but is very useful in your beginning while teaching this command.


Video on Teaching Your Dog The Down Command


YouTube video


Summary of the Dog Training Command Down

Teaching your dog the down command involves the use of hand signals and verbal signals.

Hand Signals for Down Command

  1. Place your command hand with a treat by your dog’s nose
  2. Gently just place your free hand on the dog’s upper back (never use force)
  3. Give your dog the sit command and praise him but do not give him the treat just yet
  4. Slowly you need to lower your command hand straight down to the dog’s toes (paws).
  5. Once the dog’s head is all the way down staring at the command hand & the treat then slowly pull it away from the dog so he follows and falls into the down position.
  6. Praise and give the treat for a job well done.

Verbal Signals for Down Command

  1. Sit
  2. Good Sit (use a high pitched voice to show approval)
  3. Down
  4. Good Down (use a high-pitched voice to show approval).


Tips for the Dog Training Command Down


Hand Signal Needs to be Straight Down (Noses To Toes)

The most important training tip is our humorous saying ‘Nose to Toes’ !! When teaching the Down Command, always remember to start with your Command Hand and treat at the dog’s nose and move straight down to his toes.

The hand signal should be straight down like an elevator, and not like landing a plane. This is significant because in most cases you want the dog’s head to already be as close as possible to the ground before you begin to pull your command hand away from this body. This is because dogs have a natural tendency to follow the smell of the treat when first learning a command. Therefore if your hand signal looks more like ‘landing a plane” the dog will more likely ‘walk’ to the treat and end up standing instead of lying down.

Occasionally some dogs are successful in spite of this angular issue. But most often dogs learn the training down command more smoothly and quickly with a straight hand signal. This is a common handling error that can be easily corrected. So remember, ” Nose to Toes. ”

Sequence Issue

Another Common Handling Error involves a sequence issue. As we discussed, in the initial stages of teaching the Down Command, it is helpful to just gently place your hand on the upper part of the dog’s back, just below the hackles. We do this to help guide the dog into position. Never use force to push your dog down – just gently rest your hand there.

It is important to remember that ‘Step One” is to place your hand on the dog’s back. To do so at any other point can be very distracting for the dog and will be counterproductive. He will not be able to learn the down command because he will be preoccupied with the question as to why your hand is on his back?

So do it gently, with no pressure, and while distracting him with a treat. Then give him the Sit Command and begin teaching the Down Command.

Trainer Kneeling

As with many obedience commands, it is often helpful to teach the Down Command with the trainer kneeling. It will not be forever. It just helps, especially with this command, to be more on the dog’s level when giving the ‘nose to toes’ hand signal.

We also recommend, that while kneeling, you position yourself ‘beside the dog’ not directly in front of him. This is due to having to place your hand on his back. Once the hand on the back is no longer required, you can shift to kneeling in front of the dog and then shift to standing in front of the dog. This shift is usually a matter of 10 to 20 repetitions.


3 Great Uses For The Dog Training Command Down 


1. Gain Mental Control of your Dog

First and foremost, laying down is a submissive position to place your dog in. Many dominance exercises involving the Down Command will be integral in your dog’s training. Dominance exercises help us gain mental control of our dog. Without them, we will have a dog who knows all of these obedience commands but does them whenever he feels like it!

An example of a dominance exercise might be commanding your dog to Lay Down while you brush his coat. That’s a double whammy exercise !! with two dominant measures of control being demanded. It is therefore very important that he knows the Down Command.

2. It Helps With Distractions

Another use for the Down Command relates to this notion of Obedience with Distractions. Remember if a dog is gaining attention, he is ignoring distraction.

Paying attention is a learned behavior and it takes practice. Hence Obedience with Distractions!! Many of the obedience training exercises involved in distraction work and attention training require that the dog understand the Down Command.

For example, having your dog lay down while you walk around the room or around the field and come back to him is a common exercise used. This type of training is important because, without it, you will have a dog who understands all of these great obedience commands but won’t do them for when something more exciting is going on out in his yard, on his walks, at the dog park or when friends come to the house!!!

3. It Helps With Behavior Problems

One final use of the Down Command is to assist in dealing with behavior problems. Remember the best way to stop unwanted behavior is to have a dog perform an incompatible behavior.

The Down Command can be very useful when it comes to this training adage. For example, if your dog begs at the table while you are eating you can give the dog command “Down Stay” during dinner. As you can now understand, learning “Nose to Toes” as soon as possible in your very first obedience training session is going to pay off due to its many uses.



Further Reading

Any type of dog training requires patience and perseverance but it’s worth it in the long run. To further your dog training abilities check out the Secrets to Dog Training. It’s an invaluable manual for all dog owners and covers obedience training in clear and easy steps.


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Keith Byrne

Keith Byrne

From an early age Keith has been around dogs. He has been involved in dog grooming, dog walking, dog sitting and dog showing as well as voluntary work in animal shelters. His aim is to help all dog owners especially newbies learn about dogs and care for them in a loving, caring and fun way.


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