Learning how to teach a dog to lie down is important because it’s an essential skill every pup needs to know. We’ll show you how to do this in 5 steps!
Every well-trained dog should know how to lie down. This helps calm a dog and keep their behavior under control.
Let’s look at how to quickly and effectively teach your dog this essential skill.
Training Guide: How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down
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. Sitting is a preliminary skill, and lying down is a big step for dogs. So be sure your dog has mastered the art of sitting before you tackle this command.
If you haven’t taught your dog to sit yet, learn how.
To teach your dog to lie down, here are the 5 steps you should take.
1. Grab Training Treats
First things first, it’s important to have some treats on hand as an incentive while training.
We love Zuke’s Mini Naturals as a training treat. They’re healthy and small in size, so you can give them to your dog over and over again as you work on this new skill.
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.
Bonus Training Tip
As you work on how to teach a dog to lie down, you might find yourself getting frustrated or impatient at times. Don’t worry, this is totally normal when training a dog.
Everyone gets a bit stressed when working on training. How you react to this frustration, however, is what’s important.
Training a dog does require a great deal of patience and persistence. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, either take a break entirely and start the training again at a later time or give yourself a quick timeout.
Giving yourself a brief timeout does wonders. Just pause, breathe deep and count to 10. This will recenter you.
Dogs can sense if you’re hyper or angry, so taking a few moments to regroup will make the training process even more successful.
Top Dog Training Books
While very important, figuring out how to teach a dog to lie down is just one part of training a dog. There is a lot more you need to know.
And when you get a dog, it’s important that you take the time to train them thoroughly. It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but if you put in the time now, the following years will be so much easier.
There are many different ways to train a dog, including obedience classes, working with a trainer, learning online and so forth.
Another great training method to add to your arsenal: Dog training books!
The following books are tried-and-true favorites recommended by thousands of dog owners. They’ll help you train your dog effectively and provide a solid foundation for how they should act and behave.
When we first got Toby, we spent months working on training, including reading as many books as we could. Believe me, it was exhausting at times.
The result, however, is that he became a well-behaved dog who listened and followed our commands, and that made our lives much easier in the long run.
Zak George is a well-known dog trainer with thousands of fans. If you’ve ever watched his YouTube channel, you’ll know why. He brings an enthusiastic, fun and informational style to training.
To provide a complete picture of what it takes to train a dog, George has published a book called Dog Training Revolution.
It covers everything you need to know when you get a new pup. And even if you’ve had your dog for a while, you’ll learn new things and pick up tips and tricks you didn’t know before.
We read this book when we first got Toby and highly recommend it. There’s a reason it’s a classic!
The authors bring a calm, cool, confident approach to dog training that results in obedient, well-behaved pups.
Ask any pup parent, and they’ll tell you how messy, frustrating and exhausting it can be to housebreak a dog.
Without a doubt, housebreaking a dog is one of the most challenging parts of owning a pup.
If you need help with this process, the book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you how to master it in no time.
We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.
This book was a great way to find new tricks, provide mental and physical exercises for Toby and bond with him in the process.
From time to time, we still reference this book and find a fun new trick for him to learn.
Do you have kids in your home? If so, Puppy Training for Kids is a great resource for getting the whole family on board with dog training.
With this book, kids will get a better understanding of all the work involved with training and raising a puppy and become more responsible dog owners in the process.
We hope you found our guide to how to teach a dog to lie down helpful. This is an essential skill that helps calm and center your dog and is a building block for other commands.