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How To Teach Your Dog To Lay Down: A Guide

February 3, 2022

Training your dog is one of the many joys you can expect with pet ownership. Not only is this process a wonderful bonding experience for both you and your dog, but it can also be very helpful in determining how they behave down the line.

What Are the Benefits of Teaching a Dog To Lay Down?

Teaching a dog to lay down accomplishes an array of goals that many pet parents have. When you first adopt a dog, whether they are a puppy, an adult, or a senior, you have to establish routines together as well as trust. Having this trust is what allows your relationship to thrive, and in some cases, can even be integral to keeping you both safe.

In certain situations, it is possible that you will need your dog to remain by your side or in one place for a prolonged period of time. Teaching your dog to lay down gives you the option to use this command whenever it is necessary. This can be immensely helpful if you have company over and you want your dog to stay by your side, if they somehow get off their leash during a walk, and many other possible scenarios.

Should You Teach Your Dog To Sit Before Learning To Lay Down?

The traditional way to teach a dog to lay down begins with them in a sitting position. As a result of this, it could potentially be a bit easier to train them to lay down if they already know how to sit. However, it is not a necessity that they are already trained to sit on command.

This is especially true since the commands of “sit” and “lay down” are largely meant to do the same thing. Both of them serve as a means of making sure your dog stays in one place, and no one is better than the other.

There might be some advantages to teaching your dog to sit before teaching them to lay down, but this is really up to each individual pet parent.

Steps To Teach Your Dog To Lay Down

Now it is time for what you have undoubtedly all been waiting for: how to actually teach your dog to lay down. By breaking this process down into steps, it becomes simpler for both you and your dog to become accustomed to.

Step One: Get Them in a Sitting Position

As we mentioned earlier, this is where there might be some advantages to teaching your dog to sit on command ahead of time. There are also ways to teach your dog to lie down from a standing position, but this is the way this lesson is typically learned for the vast majority of dogs. If your dog does not know how to sit on command, then you might have to wait until they start sitting on their own. Luckily, this will likely not take too long.

It is important that your dog is in a sitting position because it makes the next movements much easier for them to process. Once they understand how to lay down, you will be able to give them the prompt and they can do it from any starting position, not just sitting down.

Step Two: Show Your Dog That You Have One of Their Favorite Treats in Your Hand

Once your dog is sitting, position yourself in front of them with one of their absolute favorite treats in your hand. This should be a high reward treat that makes them especially motivated and eager to please. If your dog has not yet caught on to the fact that you are holding such a prized possession in your grasp, show it to them. You can even let them sniff the treat, so long as they do not eat it. In fact, having your dog sniff it is beneficial because you are going to want the treat at nose-level with them.

Once you have your dog’s attention on your hand with the treat on it, you can proceed.

Step Three: Slowly Lower the Treat From Their Nose to the Ground

Now that they are staring at your hand with their favorite treat, you can begin to slowly lower it from their nose to the ground. If the training is going according to plan, this should be enough for your dog to follow your hand so that all of their legs make their way to a laying down position, and their head should touch the ground too.

Step Four: Make Sure That They Are Following Your Hand

This is why it is crucial that you have a treat that your dog absolutely can’t get enough of. You need to ensure that your dog is paying attention every step of the way and that they are following the movements of your hand how you want them to. If this treat is not enticing enough, they could get frustrated, bored, or simply walk away. In this case, you can try a different kind of treat, a toy, or try again another time.

Step Five: Pull the Treat Just a Little Distance Away

If you notice that your dog is starting to get the hang of it, but they still are not quite fully laying down, you can pull the treat just a little ways away from their face and back toward you. This will cause them to put their head on the ground along with the rest of them.

Step Six: Once Your Dog Is Fully Laying Down, Give Them the Treat

At last, you have the culmination of all of your hard work together. Once your dog is completely at rest and laying down on the floor, it is time to give them the treat they want so badly. Be sure to also give them a lot of verbal praise, too. Some pets are also sure to be appreciated.

Step Seven: Repeat

Practice makes perfect, and teaching your dog to lay down is absolutely no exception to that golden rule. Once you have your first successful lay down, it is time to try again and again. Each time they succeed, be sure to praise them handsomely for their efforts.

Step Eight: Add a Verbal Cue to Your Hand Motion

If you are realizing that your dog is really getting the hang of this whole laying down thing, you can add a verbal cue to their motion. Right as they are laying down, you can say “down,” “lay down,” or any other prompting word or phrase you would like. Just make sure that you are always consistent with both the word(s) you choose as well as the hand motion that you make.

Step Nine: Move the Treat to Your Other Hand

At this point, your dog is almost a laying down pro. Now is the time to move the treat to your opposite hand so that they are paying more attention to your hand motion and vocal cue than to the treat itself. The treat will be out of sight, and possibly out of mind, but be sure to give it to them right when they successfully lay down.

Tips To Keep in Mind

Now that you have a working understanding of the steps involved with teaching your dog to sit, here are a few helpful tips to make the process that much simpler.

Keep a Lot of Treats on Hand

As you might have guessed, this process is going to take a significant amount of treats to get done right. This is nothing to be afraid of and is a normal part of the process. Make sure not to feed your dog so many treats that they might get sick, but do not be particularly stingy with them either. Positive reinforcement is absolutely integral to training a dog, and reinforcement does not get much more positive than treats.

Teach Your Dog While They Are Tired

A tired dog is a focused dog (unless they are currently falling asleep in their crate). Taking your dog out for a nice long walk prior to a training session is a wonderful way to get rid of excess energy that might keep them from concentrating. Getting adequate exercise will also help them significantly if they are experiencing any kind of stress.

Do Not Make Individual Training Sessions Too Long

Even if you might be ready for more training to take place, that does not mean that your dog is still in the right mental space for it. After you have been training your dog for a little while, it is entirely possible that they might become bored, overwhelmed, or tired. If these feelings occur and you begin to lose your dog’s attention, simply pick it back up another time. You do not want your dog to create any negative associations with laying down or with learning in general.

Know That This Lesson Might Take Some Time To Stick

It might take several sessions for your dog to really understand how to lay down on command, and this is not a cause for alarm. All dogs learn at their own speeds, and it is our job as pet parents to respect that.

Wrapping Up

Teaching your dog to lay down is an endeavor that is equal parts adorable and important. When done correctly, this trick is one that will be mutually beneficial to both you and your pet.


Importance of Puppy Training for Future Behavior of the Dog | Research Gate

How To Teach Your Dog To Lie Down | American Kennel Club

Signs Your Dog Is Stressed and How To Relieve It | VCA Animal Hospitals

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