Shape a Down
• Your dog learns to place his elbows and rear on the ground when cued.
Lay the Foundation:
- Position your hand with a treat in it about 1 inch in front of your dog’s nose.
- Slowly move the treat hand down to the ground (between your dog’s paws) and then back towards his elbows. As your dog’s head lowers to follow the treat, he tucks his chin in and his elbows should approach the ground.
- Click the instant your dog’s elbows and rear touch the ground and offer the treat.
- After five repetitions, you should be able to lure the behavior without a treat in your hand. Repeat until your dog is reliably offering a down when prompted by a treat-free hand movement to earn a click and treat.
- Add the verbal cue once the behavior becomes predictable: Just prior to your dog lying down, give your verbal cue “down”. This cue should precede any hand movement. Repeat.
• The behavior may be taught with your dog starting in a sitting or standing position.
• If your dog is backing up whilst you’re moving the lure hand over his head, then encourage him closer to your body first before initiating the rearward movement. You can
also teach the behavior against a physical barrier such as a wall or corner.
• If you’re having difficulty getting the entire behavior, then shape by clicking and treating small increments towards the desired behavior. This may mean that you will click and treat prior to the elbows touching the ground.
• You could also opt for capturing the behavior at home by simply waiting for your dog to offer a down. You should sit in a chair in closed room and pretend to read a magazine.
Have your dog with you in the room, but don’t give him anything to do. Have your clicker and treats ready. Your dog will eventually become bored and lie down. The instant his bottom touches the ground, click and toss the treat on the floor. He’ll get up to eat the treat. Then ignore him again and pretend to read your magazine. When he lies down
again, click and toss the treat. Repeat until your dog is confidently offering a down. Once he has understood that the down is getting him the click, you can start to say the word “down” as you see him do the behavior.
Request a Down With You Standing Upright
• Your dog learns to place his elbows and rear on the ground when cued without having you all bent over him.
- Warm up your dog by practicing a few downs as in Level 1.
- Now start to slowly bring your own body upright until you are in a standing position: each time you do the hand movement, start from a slightly higher position (an inch higher than on your last attempt), and do not motion your hand all the way to the ground (your instructor will demonstrate this step). Repeat this step, until you are fully upright.
- This hand motion will become your final hand signal to cue the down.
• Change your height in very small increments, an inch at a time. If you change your own body posture too quickly, your dog will not understand that your are requesting the same “down” behavior from him in turn.
Distraction, Duration and Distance
• Your dog begins to lie down for longer periods of time, he can stay lying down even when there are distractions around, and he can learn to lie down at a distance from you.
- Ask the dog to down, and give him a treat (but no click/”yes”). Then immediately release him with the words “okay” as you take a step backward to encourage him to get up and move with you. This teaches your dog that he downs and needs to stay in a down until he is released with your verbal release cue. Fade out the backward step over time.
- Add distractions: Vary the location by training in other areas of your house, the backyard, front yard, on a walk, in the park, etc. Also, vary your body position relative to your dog: turn sideways so that your dog is at your side, wave your arms, recline in a chair, etc. Always release with your release cue “okay”.
- Add duration. Return to the least distracting environment and begin to add duration. Your dog now needs to hold the down for 1 second/Treat, 2 seconds/Treat, 3 seconds/Treat. Build up to 15 seconds. Then move to another environment and start again with a 1 second/Treat. Always release with your release cue “okay” and Click and Treat. Vary the duration, don’t always make it harder.
- Add distance. Here your dog must maintain his down as you take a step away from him and back towards him. Cue your dog to down, lean away from him and Treat.
- Next time, take 1 step away from and 1 step back towards him and treat. Gradually, increase the distance a step at a time. Always release with your release cue “okay” and Click and Treat. Vary the distance, don’t always make it harder.
• When teaching duration or distance, if your dog breaks the down, you have increased the time/distance too rapidly or the environment is too distracting. Go back to a shorter time or fewer number of steps.
• Vary the duration or distance so it is not always more difficult with each repetition.
• With each repetition, reward your dog with a treat while he is in the down position (but do not click), then release his down with your “okay” cue, then Click and Treat.