Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

To teach your dog to lie down, all you really need are a few tasty snacks. No other equipment or tools are required. 

Don't confuse the Down Command with the Off Command.  Off is used when you don't want your little Tzu to jump up on you, the furniture, or something inappropriate.

Down means that you expect him to lay completely on the ground with his belly squarely on the ground.  This is usually a very comfortable position for a dog to maintain and they will situate themselves in this position whether or not they are trained to do so.  We use this knowledge to actively train them to do something they already know how to do.

Why Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

You can teach your dog how to lie down

This is a useful trick to teach, especially if you need your dog to calm down quickly.  It is also used when you want him to stay.  Dogs can generally remain in the “stay” place for much longer if first in a down position. 

If you have problems with your dog barking when the doorbell rings, this little command will give your little dog something to do other than bark and jump on your guests.

The Down command can be taught once the puppy understands “sit.” Some puppies learn down before they learn to sit, and that is Okay.  

In the “Down” position, the dog drops to the ground with both chest and belly touching the ground.  This skill can be learned by dogs of any age…So whether you are teaching this to a puppy or an older dog, you should see a clear understanding within 1 to 2 weeks assuming you’ve worked with your dog every day.

How to Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

Hand signals and treats are used to teach your dog to lay down

With your dog sitting facing you, hold a treat to his nose, this time your palm should be facing the ground and lower it slowly to the floor.

If you are lucky, your dog will follow the treat with his nose and lie down, at which time you can release the treat and praise him by saying, “Good Down!” Remember offer the treat while your dog is in the lying position.

Do not give it to him if he gets up – that will be too late, and he will think that you are rewarding the action of rising up. If your dog follows the treat with his nose, but does not lie down, slowly move the treat to the dog’s right side.  The dog will follow with his nose and will only be able to get the treat if he’s lying down.

If your dog is not responding to the food lure, put slight pressure on his shoulder blade, pushing down and to the side. Praise your dog when he drops to the floor. It is always preferable to coax the dog to place himself without your physical manipulation.

Eventually, you should be able to say the word down, use the same hand signal or point to the ground, and the dog will lie down without following a food treat.  You will still reward with a treat, but will not allow him to follow the scent of the treat down to the floor as you did previously. 

When he can do this without following the treat with his nose, reward with a treat after he gets into the correct lying position.

Problems You Might Encounter

Problems:  My Dog won’t do this.

Look at the flooring.  Some dogs won’t do this on a hard surface.  Try using a blanket or working on a carpeted area.

If it is not the surface that bothers him, there may be other reasons.  Wait until he is in a down position and reward him with a treat.  Repeat his name and then, Good, Down and reward.  Be sure to reward while he is lying down.  In human terms, we call this, Catch the child being good.

My Dog won’t stay down

If he stands up don’t reward him and put him back down. Standing on his leash will cause him to self-correct if he tries to stand up. Do not do this if the leash is attached to the collar.  With this method, you should be using the harness so that the dog does not get hurt.  This should be a gentle reminder to your dog about what you expect, not a punishment.

After many repeated successful “Downs,” reward only sporadically.  Your dog will not know when he is to get a treat.  Always praise even though you do not treat.

Teach Your Dog How to Lie Down

More Dog Commands to Teach Your Shih Tzu

Watch Me          Sit          Come          Stay          Leave It          Walk Nicely on a Leash

Teach your dog the "down" command.Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

Don't Mix Up the Terms "Down" and "Off"

When a dog jumps on you or the sofa or you, and you want him down, use the “Off” command and not this “Down” command.

About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and smart knit crocheting.