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Basic Dog Commands: How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down

dog lie down

Featured Image: via encierro/Shutterstock

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Few things are as enjoyable for dog parents as successfully teaching their pooch tricks. Especially when the trick can be helpful in certain situations.

Teaching your dog to lie down is a basic dog training command that can help keep your dog’s behavior under control.

“It’s more of a settled posture than sitting,” says Irith Bloom, certified professional trainer and director of training at TheSophisticatedDog.com. “That means your dog is less likely to pop up unexpectedly from a down.”

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to teach a dog to lie down, straight from Sara K. Enos, dog trainer and Founder & CEO of the American Pit Bull Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Getting Started: How to Teach “Lie Down”

Before you begin to train your dog to lie down, your dog will first need to know how to sit on command. Sitting is the first step toward lying down, so it’s essential that your dog knows how to sit on command. If he hasn’t mastered that yet, click here for help on teaching your dog to sit.

Remember that during basic dog training (or when you do anything, for that matter), you should be relying on your body language more than words.

“We humans are more verbally responsive, whereas canines are more responsive to overall body language,” Enos says.

It might be worthwhile to look into getting a nice, new mat for your pup to lie down on to make training sessions more pleasant and comfy for your pup. The special micro terry fabric of the Frisco Pet Bed and Crate Mat is designed to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Also, make sure to have plenty of training treats ready. For a low-calorie option, Fruitables Pumpkin & Blueberry Treats are crunchy and only 9 calories each. Charlee Bear Liver Flavor Treats aren’t greasy in your hands and won’t leave crumbs behind after your training session.

How to Teach A Dog to Lie Down: Method One

Step 1: With your dog in the “Sit” position, hold a treat close to his nose. The treat shouldn’t be so close that he can gobble it up, but close enough that he gets a good whiff of the treat.

Step 2: Lure him slowly down toward the floor with the treat.

Step 3: Each time he pops back up, withhold the treat and repeat. Only give the treat when he is all the way down on the floor, not partially or in the “spring-loaded” position (with his butt in the air).

Step 4: Once he is getting the hang of it, start saying the word “Down” as he is lowering himself to the floor.

How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down: Method Two

Step 1: With both you and your dog sitting on the floor, hold a tasty treat (Tylee’s Human-Grade Turkey Jerky is worth lying down for, most doggies would say) in your fist down on the floor. He will try over and over to get the treat out of your hand, but wait for him to lie completely down.

Step 2: When he does lie completely down, make a dramatic gesture out of flipping your fist over and opening your hand, allowing him to take the treat and praising him.

Step 3: Once your dog lies down and is rewarded with the treat, begin marking the action as soon as he starts doing it with the word “Down.” In this way, he’ll begin associating the command with the appropriate action.

No matter which method you choose, if your dog is close to almost getting it, you can urge him on by saying “That’s it!” in an encouraging tone. You’ll also up your fur baby’s odds of success by working in short increments of 5-10 minutes tops, and giving him a rest after each training session. That way, he’ll be better able to absorb what he learned.

Dog Training Tips

Don’t Mix up “Down” With “Off”

“Down” is often confused with “Off.” If your dog jumps on the couch, your bed or, say, in your mother-in-law’s lap, and he is not allowed there, you want him to get off of it—not lie down on it. It’s important to be clear that the command for those situations is “Off.”

When you’re first figuring out how to teach a dog to lie down, the last thing you want to do is confuse your dog—or upset your mother-in-law! So be careful to use those dog commands correctly and consistently.

Be Patient When Teaching Basic Dog Training Commands

Keep in mind that even when used in the proper context, “Down” is not as easy for canines to learn as “Sit” or “Stay.”

“It’s less natural of a movement, as it puts them in a more vulnerable position,” Enos explains.

Whether you’re teaching a puppy to lie down, or literally teaching an old dog new tricks, be patient and keep a positive attitude.

Some dogs pick up new learned behaviors faster than others, so you shouldn’t compare your dog to your neighbor’s, best friend’s or anyone else’s. Each dog is an individual who learns at his own pace.

If you know the right technique—and are willing to invest the necessary time—just about any pup can learn basic dog commands. Even if your pupper never advances to audience-worthy tricks, the process will be a fun bonding experience for the two of you.



Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub. 

Featured Image: via encierro/Shutterstock