Teaching your dog a new command can be a challenging and time-consuming experience, so it’s important to be patient and understanding. Oh, and make sure you have lots of tasty treats to hand - they’re the best source of motivation.
Teaching your dog to lie down is a slow and steady process that requires a lot of repetitive actions, but it’s worth it. A dog that lies down on command will be much better in crowds and social situations, like a picnic or a pub.
Begin practising in a quiet and familiar environment that your dog feels comfortable (then, after a while, in busy places with lots of distractions). Start off slowly by placing a treat on your palm and closing your hand. Then put your hand right up close to your dog’s nose so they can get a good sniff of it. If they know that you are holding a tasty snack, then they’ll be more willing to learn.
Next, gradually lower your hand to the floor, letting your dog follow the scent of the treat. It may be easier to put your dog in the sitting position first if they’re already familiar with this – but don’t worry if they aren’t. Allow them to follow your hand to the floor, until they are in a lying down position.
Your pup may not get to grips with this straight away, lying part of the way down with their legs still hovering, but this will get better with lots of practice, praise and treats.
If they lie down then get straight back up, make sure you don’t reward them for this. Place them back in the sitting position and repeat the process to ensure they know they have to stay lying down until they’re told they can get back up.
Next, continue working with the same motion of placing your hand down to the floor whilst saying “lie down” or whatever command you prefer. Once they lay down, reward them with a treat. Keep doing this so they get used to the hand movement and the accompanying word. Once they have a good grasp, it’s time to take away the treat so they associate the action with your hand movement and command, rather than with food.
Mastering this can take time and every dog is different, but it’s still a brilliant achievement getting to the no treats stage.
Eventually, you should be able to remove the hand gesture and just use the command. It may take a while but your dog will get the hang of it. Just continue giving them lots of praise throughout the stages to ensure they know that they are doing a great job.