Learning how to teach a dog to lie down is an important skill every dog owner should know. We’ll show you how to get started in 5 easy steps.
How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down in 5 Steps
As you work on training, the goal is to have your dog lie down and stay lying down on command until you tell them otherwise.
Before you teach a dog to lie down, however, they should be able to sit. If you haven’t taught your dog to sit yet, learn how.
1. Grab Training Treats
First things first, it’s important to have some treats on hand as an incentive while training.
Next, get the dog’s attention with a treat and make them sit. Show them the treat and let them know you’re prepared to give it to them.
If your dog can’t stay sitting or doesn’t respond properly, step back and hide the treat until they’re calm.When they’re sitting and can stay sitting, squat or kneel so that you’re on their level.
One note: You can also use a clicker with the treat or instead of it, depending on your training methods.
2. Start with a Command
Next, it’s time to say a command to signal the action you want your dog to take. This is most likely either “down” or “lie down.”
Say it in a calm but firm tone and make sure you use the same phrase every time.
Don’t skip it even once! Consistency is key.
3. The Lying Down Motion
From there, slowly move the treat to the floor underneath the dog’s nose. They should follow your hand with their nose.
If you can keep the dog’s attention, move the treat back toward you while keeping the treat low to the ground.
If your dog can’t stay sitting or isn’t following, hide the treat with your hand. Restart from sitting every time they get up and break their attention.
4. Gently Press on Your Dog’s Shoulder
When they get to the floor, gently press them down to the floor so they are totally relaxed. Just don’t push them too hard.
Keep practicing making an “L” motion with your hand as you move it to the floor under the dog’s nose and then toward you as it hovers near the ground.
End the motion with a gentle press on the dog’s shoulder.
5. Reward with a Treat
When your dog performs to your satisfaction, immediately give them the treat.
Don’t delay the reinforcement or ask them to do extra things, as tempting as it may be. You want them to understand that they are being rewarded for this specific action.
Additional Tips and Tricks
As you work on how to teach a dog to lie down, the following tips and tricks will make the process more successful and ensure this is a skill they’ll retain in the long run.
What if Your Dog is Stubborn
All dogs start out a little confused. If you suspect that your dog is actually resisting your command to lie down, however, try this method instead.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent up. Keep your feet and knees a bit apart. Hold the treat in your hand and lead the dog under your bent knees.
Give your dog the treat only when they are completely lying down.
Some dogs will try to stay up on their legs or leave their butt up, but this method ensures they are down completely.
When you see that your dog is lying down randomly, give them a treat and tell them “Good job!”
Be very positive. This will help them understand what you want and that this behavior will be rewarded.
Teaching Your Dog to Get up
You want the dog to stay lying down until it’s time to get up. To signal that it’s time to get up, give them a command like “OK” or a hand clap.
Repeat this between 5-15 times the first time your dog understands what you’re saying.
Training Routine Structure
Ideally, trainings should last about ten minutes once or twice a day. They should be short and simple.
As they say, practice makes perfect. Just make sure you spread out the practice sessions and don’t overwhelm your pup.
Take Away the Treat
Of course, your dog eventually needs to be obedient without treats all the time.
When they’ve got the hang of the “down” command, practice the same routine using positive verbal reinforcement.
Have your dog perform the “lie down” command four times back to back, then show him an empty hand. Give them a surprise treat on the fifth try right afterward.
Stop the Hand Motion
A few days into the empty hand routine, start working towards verbal commands only. Say “down” first. Make the same “L” motion as before, but stop short a few inches off the floor.
Quickly move your hand away and give your dog both the treat and positive verbal reinforcement.
Every few days, make your hand motion smaller and smaller until the dog can do it without any hand motion at all. When your dog’s ready, practice in a calm area outside your house, like on an early morning walk.
Final Thoughts: How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down
Teaching your dog a new skill always takes time and practice. It’s important to teach this command to your dog for a number of reasons, so make sure you keep going until your furry friend masters it.
We taught Toby how to lie down years ago, and it’s a command we use almost every day. We use it to get him to pause and stay still, especially before giving him food. It’s also something we instruct him to do when he’s restless and won’t settle down or when he’s getting a bit too close when we’re cooking.
Definitely add this to your essential skills when training your pup!
Watch a Training Video
Training videos are always a great resource, especially if you’re more of a visual learner.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has created a video about how to teach a dog to lie down that’s another great training tool.
By reading our article and watching this video, you’ll be ready to teach your dog this quintessential skill in no time.