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Benefit

Down is a great way to teach your dog impulse control and to make your life easier. A dog lying down can’t jump, surf counters, knock over trash cans, or steal your shoes. A dog that masters a well-trained down is much easier to take out in public and to other people’s houses.

What You Need

Prerequisite

Your dog needs to know how to sit on command.

How to Train It

Step 1. First, stand in front of your dog, facing her. Ask her to sit, then click and treat. Next, hold a treat within an inch of her nose using a flat hand with your fingers pointing toward your dog (this becomes the hand signal). Lure your dog into the down position by bringing your hand down toward the floor between her legs. Move slowly, so your dog’s nose follows and she doesn’t lose interest.

Step 2. When your dog’s elbows hit the ground, she will probably sink into the down position. If so, click (or say “yes!”) and release the treat. If her elbows hit the ground but her rear has gone up, move your hand away from her like you’re tracing a line on the floor. As soon as she is in the down position, click and release the treat.

Step 3. Step back so your dog has to stand up to follow you and repeat the exercise. Get a sit, then lure a down position again. Do this 15 or 20 times until she easily follows the lure into a down position.

Step 4. Now, get rid of the treat as a lure. Face your dog and hold your hand (without the treat) in front of your dog in the same hand signal as before. If your dog lies down, click and treat her with the other hand. Repeat this step several times in different places around the house.

Step 5. Now it’s time to add the verbal cue. Face your dog, say “down,” and give the hand signal. When your dog lies down, click and treat her. Keep practicing this step until your dog gets it right nine out of ten trials using the verbal cue and hand signal.

Step 6. Now try without the hand signal. Say “down” and if your dog lies down, click and treat. If your dog needs a little guidance, show her your hand and indicate the downward movement. Keep practicing until your dog reliably lies down when given the verbal cue.

Step 7. When your dog is consistently lying down in response to the verbal cue, you can begin to practice in more distracting areas, such as your yard, a quiet neighborhood street, or someone else’s house. Eventually, your dog will be able to lie down on cue at the park or the local café. Also increase the length of time your dog stays in the down position before giving the treat.

Step 8. When your dog is consistently lying down in more distracting areas, you can begin to use the treats only intermittently. Now only fast downs will earn your dog a treat, whereas a slow response gets her a pat on the head and a “good dog!” Also be sure to use “life rewards” to strengthen your dog’s response. Ask for a down before throwing a ball, opening a door for her to go outside, allowing her onto the couch, etc.

Tips

Benefit

Teaching your dog to drop something on command means you will be able to get dangerous or unauthorized items away from her without problems or aggression. This comes in handy with everything from chicken bones to shards of plastic or glass, bits of toys, or your remote control—all detrimental things that a dog might scarf down or chew on.

Note: If your dog ever aggressively guards items (growls, bares her teeth, barks, snaps, or lunges if you try to take things from her), talk to our behavior department before you work on this command.

What You Need

How to Train It

Step 1. When your dog has something in her mouth she would be likely to let go of (e.g. a tennis ball that you will throw for her), offer her a treat. As she releases the ball to get the treat say “drop it!” (or “release” or “give,” if you prefer, just choose one command and stick with it). Then let your dog get the ball again.

Step 2. Repeat this sequence (offer treat; say command; dog drops; give treat) several times over several training sessions or days. Begin to practice with other toys your dog is allowed to play with.

Step 3. As your dog begins to understand that you will trade a treat for whatever she has in her mouth, start to give the command first, then offer the treat or use the ball as a reward and toss it as she releases the object. The sequence now becomes: Say “drop it!”, your dog releases the object, and then you give her a reward (treat or toy). Again, it helps to practice this with toys you can then throw for your dog or play with for a minute. Getting the treat and the toy back is doubly rewarding.

Step 4. Begin to phase out the reward after your dog is getting “drop it” right every time, i.e. she should release things without first being promised a food reward. If she drops a toy, the reward can now simply be that you will toss the toy or pick it up and play tug with her. If she drops something very special and valuable, like a chicken bone she found on the street, then you should have a food treat to give her. You should think of trading a lower value item with a higher value item.

Tips and Pitfalls

Benefit

Just like you would turn to look when someone says your name, dogs can learn to do the same. If your dog learns to pay attention to you when you say his name, he is more likely to hear when you give him verbal cues, see where you are going, and learn what you are trying to teach him.

What You Need

How to Train It

Step 1. Put several pieces of food in one hand. In a cheerful voice, say your dog’s name. When he looks up at you, click or say “yes!” and immediately hand him a treat. As soon as he swallows, say his name again. When he looks at you, click and hand him a treat. When he swallows, repeat—name, click, treat. Do several trials.

Step 2. Next, say your dog’s name, click or say “yes!,” then praise him just before giving him a treat. When he looks up at you for the next treat, say “yes” and bring your hand up a few inches above your dog’s head. If he looks up to follow the lure, click and treat him.

Step 4. In the beginning, ask for only a few seconds of focused attention before clicking and treating. Have another treat ready so you can reward your dog for looking back at you when he has finished the treat. Each time, try to bring the lure an inch or two higher, aiming to get your dog to look up at your face.

Step 5. After a half dozen rewards, turn away from your dog. If he follows you and offers to watch you voluntarily, click or say “yes!,” praise him with “good watch” and treat him.

Tips

Benefit

When your dog knows “find it,” you can distract him away from or pass distractions in the environment. It’s also a great way to give your dog a mental workout.

What You Need

Prerequisite

Your dog should know sit and sit-stay.

How to Train It

BEGINNERS

Step 1. First, introduce a treat shower: Toss a whole handful of treats onto the ground and say “find it!”

Step 2. Repeat this many times a day for several days. When your dog starts to search the floor when you say “find it!” and have yet to toss any treats, move on to the next phase.

INTERMEDIATE

Step 1. Either put your dog in a sit-stay position, have a helper hold him in position, or use a baby gate to keep your dog in place. Place a treat under an easily movable object such as a pillow or a small unbreakable object, a box or a paper bag. Make sure your dog sees you do this. Release your dog and tell your dog “find it!”

Step 2. Practice this exercise in several locations within a room around objects that are safe for your dog to move with his paw or body.

Step 3. Next, increase the difficulty slightly by placing two treats in different locations. Once your dog is very good at uncovering the treat in several settings and rooms, move on.

ADVANCED

Step 1. With your dog in a sit-stay position, go into another room and place a few treats in various locations. As this is the first time your dog hasn’t watched you place the treats, make it easy for him by leaving them partially visible or just in various locations on the floor. Release your dog and tell your dog “find it!”

Step 2. After several sessions, start making it harder by hiding the treats completely while your dog is out of sight.

Watch this video to learn how to teach your dog the Find It command.

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