Any unconventional method of teaching "down"? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 02:03 PM Thread Starter
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Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

I was wondering if any of you have had problems teaching a pup to "down". I've tried the "hold treat at nose in sit position and lower to floor" method several times now but as Hugo goes for the treat he raises his behind off the ground so he's lost the down position I'm asking for.
I read somewhere else on one of the posts that treating him when he does an inadvertent down and saying "good down" will tell him to associate the word with that action so he will do it when he hears the word by itself. I've tried that some last week and over the long weekend but not having much luck.
Any other suggestions on how I can teach him this?
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 02:12 PM
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

What I did with Gia was I put a piece of hotdog (she loves hotdogs and will do anything for a tiny little piece of one ) and hold it in my fist. Then I give the command and put my fist on the ground in front of her and wait. She tried pawing at my fist, nudging at it..you name it she tried it. Sooner or later though, she plopped herself into a down, as soon as this happened I clicked and opened my hand telling her good "down".

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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 02:26 PM
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

Have you tried using the 'bridge' type of method? You kneel on one leg and put your other leg out in front of you with your foot planted on the ground so that there is a space under your leg where the dog will fit. Then you use a treat to lure the dog to go underneath your leg, and he will have to lay down and scoot forward to fit. As soon as his back end is on the ground you praise/reward. I've heard of using this method for dogs when the regular luring doesn't work.
Another thing that sometimes helps if you are trying to lure the dog with a treat and he isn't laying down is to move the treat in towards his chest. When you put the treat down to get him to move his nose down instead of pulling the treat in towards you, move your hand with the treat down and towards the dog's chest instead. That sometimes works.

If you used clicker training you can do capturing or shaping to train down. Capturing involves clicking/rewarding when the dog lays down on their own. If you keep doing this they will start laying down more and more and once you can predict that they will lay down at a certain time you can start adding on the cue word "down" when they do it.

Shaping involves rewarding successive approximations. For example with 'down' you might click/reward the dog for lowering her head, then wait until the head is a little lower, then reward for a leg bending, and so on until finally the dog is actually laying down. Again you don't add the cue word until the dog is laying down predictably.


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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 02:46 PM
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

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Originally Posted By: Hugo-liciousI've tried the "hold treat at nose in sit position and lower to floor" method several times now but as Hugo goes for the treat he raises his behind off the ground so he's lost the down position I'm asking for.
What happens if you wait? Will he eventually drop his butt down again or does he stand back up? Sometimes you just have to be patient, even if that means waiting a little while. Holding and moving the treat in the proper position as Chicagocanine describes helps too, and then marking and releasing the treat to him the second butt and elbows touch down - don't let him get it before then.

I've had great luck with capturing too. It can take some time before you add the command and he's associating it with the action, but I guarantee that if you start marking (verbally - "yes!" or with a clicker) and tossing him a treat every time he lays down on the floor he will start doing it more and more frequently. I wouldn't worry about adding the command until he's consistently offering downs and expecting a reward, and then you would use it right before you can see he's about to lay down, mark and reward. When you do add the command you would again wait for him to comply, even if that's several seconds or a minute or two. Don't repeat the command, lure only if necessary. Eventually he WILL get it!

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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 02:50 PM
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

For me "down" is the hardest to get the dog to keep doing. I always get "pop-up" dogs. I use a clicker and food lure, and they seem to eventually get the idea.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

Thanks for the ideas! I actually tried the hold fist down to the floor idea as a last measure when my lower food to floor didnt work. He pawed and chewed on my fist and then just walked away. I was left holding a rather mushed up hot dog :-) I figured that was not the right way to do it so gave up. Now that you mention it, I'll give it a try again.
I really like the bridge method too. Hugo is very pouncy though and last time I tried to get to his level like Victoria Stillwell indicated, he punctured two holes in my fave house-shirt (uggh! my Chewy chews everything). Maybe I'll wear him out with play and run first and give this a try after so he'll be a little docile.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 03:30 PM
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

LOL...okay I am sorry to giggle, but the way you put it was pretty cute/funny. Hmmm..so I take it Hugo is not really really food motivated. There is no way in ach-ee-double hockey sticks that Gia would walk away knowing there is a hot dog in Mom's fist. Hope some one's suggestions get ya headed in the right direction.

~Alison

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

"What happens if you wait? Will he eventually drop his butt down again or does he stand back up?"

If I wait depending on the time I wait, he will pounce on it and try to chew the hand around it until he gets to the treat. I tried that when the lower to floor didnt work. I moved my closed fist between his feet hoping that'd make him sit and go for it. Instead he stood up, moved backwards and tried to pry my fist open again.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

Oh he's food motivated alright but he's so full of energy that he can't wait enough to do something before he wants to move on to something else. Some days I think he suffers from dog ADD So far I've taught him to sit, gimme paw and roll on the floor and come mealtime he does them all w/o any cue. It's cute to watch (and I can't help but giggle) but I'd kill for a down on one of those days.
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-06-2009, 03:45 PM
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Re: Any unconventional method of teaching "down"?

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Quote:
I've had great luck with capturing too. It can take some time before you add the command and he's associating it with the action, but I guarantee that if you start marking (verbally - "yes!" or with a clicker) and tossing him a treat every time he lays down on the floor he will start doing it more and more frequently.
Using a clicker is the best way to do it. And don't treat from your hand, which raises his head, which may raise the body. The treat should be put on the floor between the paws.

With regard to luring, DON'T start at the nose any more. Get something that smells amazing (hot dogs, dehydrating lamb lung, smelly cheese, dehydrated tripe), when your dog is in a sit, put the treat between your pup's front paws, under his neck. If he tries to go for it by bending his neck (many will), push it a little further under her chest.

Some dogs move forward into a down. But a lot BACK into a down (especially when they're puppies). It's more comfortable (just like some dogs will naturally spin or roll over one direction or anyone). So if you're trying to get your dog to come forward to a down and she's a backer-upper, it won't be natural to her.

I was at the vet's office and a woman had a lovely hunting spaniel with her, about 6 months old. I asked if I could give the dog a treat. She said sure. I asked the dog for a sit. Dog sat. I asked the dog to lie down. The woman said "this dog won't lie down on command. I've tried everything."

I tried the technique I just outlined. It took a few tries. The dog kept backing up on me, so I moved my hand further under her chest; she mouthed my hand, but I held tight to my treat. Suddenly, she plopped down. Then, in rapid succession, she kept plopping down. After about 8 times, I started to put the word "down" to it. She Could down!! She just needed the right approach for her body/brain.
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