Another basic skill a dog should learn is how to lay “down”. This is a really neat skill because it can lead into other more complicated tricks such as “play dead”. However, before getting into this trick, make sure your puppy has already mastered the sit command. To find out how to teach your puppy to sit, visit this page to begin the prerequisite steps.
Bring Puppy to “Sit”
The first step is going to be getting puppy to sit. Once they have sat down, praise them with a “good girl” or “good boy”, and a cue from your clicker if you have one.
Once you have puppy in a sitting position, now you want to start the process of baiting them into laying down. Basically, just show them the treat in your hand, or even let them sniff it in your hand so as to get puppy’s interest.
Begin Baiting into a Laying Position
Using the command “Down”, you are going to use the treat in your hand to bait the puppy to get their nose to the floor. Once the nose is to the floor start pulling the treat away from our canine compadre to encourage them to stretch their body out into a laying position.
The action is complete once all 4 elbows are touching the ground. This should be followed with tons of praise and a few treats on the floor in between the front paws. Using a few treats instead of just one will give the puppy a bit of extra time in the laying position, so as not to encourage an instant down/up action, but rather prolonging the laying so you can teach a release word.
Before your puppy gets up, use your chosen release word. This will allow you to move on to the next step once your puppy is more confident in the lay down command.
Using a Release Word
Much the same as when you are teaching a puppy to sit, you are going to want to use a release word so that the action isn’t an instant down/up action. Before you do this, you must wait until puppy is confident in the initial lay down action, and then start giving the treat and praise reward when you use the release word instead of when puppy lays down.
Initially you aren’t going to want to wait long before using the release word, as I would imagine patience for treats isn’t in your puppy’s DNA. However, as puppy starts waiting for the release word you can prolong the time between the laying down and the use of the release word.
As you are advancing and the time improves between your puppy laying down and using your release word, I find it works best to casually encourage your puppy with lots of low energy, soft “good girl” or “good boy” praises to just let them know you are happy with them and they are doing the right thing.
Using Treats as a Motivation
Once you find puppy is starting to get very comfortable with laying down on command, and using a release word, you are now wanting to wean puppy off of treats as the only motivation. This is where it is beneficial to have a clicker, as that can often times replace giving puppy a treat all together.
Without a clicker, it’s a simple but slow process for weaning puppy off treats as a motivation. Rather, you want them to follow the commands for the POSSIBILITY of there being a treat. You do this by giving the puppy treats after completing the command at intervals.
To start, maybe just do every second time. Once you and your pupper get more comfortable with this, start to do every third time, then every fourth and so on. Eventually you will build up to using variable times. (IE: one treat on the second time, then the fourth time, then maybe the third time, then fourth again, etc.)
Eventually your praise and a cue (If you used a clicker) will be ample reward to get puppy to lay down and await a release word.
Just Some Tips to Remember
Keep in mind when you’re training that breaking a single treat up into several other treats helps you prolong your stash and it gives you more opportunities to practice with your puppy. Dogs aren’t able to tell the difference between a big treat or a little one, so this is just as effective as one giant treat, and less calories!!
Another important thing to consider is just being patient and consistent. Puppies have about the same mental acuity as a toddler, so just keep your training consistent and frequent and before you know it, your Pupperoni Pizza will be the most well behaved canine in the country.
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