Help! Training Down without a Protest. - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Help! Training Down without a Protest.

So I need some help with the "down" command. This is the only command I've been having any trouble with, so far.

I've tired luring - this only works until she realizes there's no treat in my hand, shaping - she fights it or goes down in protest and lays on her side (is this submissive behavior she's showing? I'm never rough with her but when I put her into down she automatically goes on her side. When I first started cutting her nails, I had her roll onto her side, is this carrying forward?) and capturing with clicker training but my timing was off so we've ditched the clicker for now because I don't think I was doing anything but confusing her. I haven't added a cue to the action yet because I know we're not quite there.

The current class we are in is completely praise/toy reward based so I've been trying to keep the training with treats at home very minimal, she loves playing tug so it's working out pretty good for us all except for the down.

I'm at my wits end and not sure what to do next, any suggestions on what I can do to teach her would be greatly appreicated. I'm going to speak to my trainer tonight but am open to trying almost anything, nothing too extreme of course. Thanks

Courtney M.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 02:58 PM
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While you are still luring her into a down make sure you have a treat in your hand. When you can add a verbal command and then minimize the luring with the treat you know it's working but take your time. Are you starting with a treat in your hand at eye level and then in a swooping motion moving the treat down between the front legs and feet? That usually gets them in a down. When they finally get in the down, lots of praise and treats. "good down, etc" Then minimize the hand motion and still lots of praise and treats. Then gradually minimize to only a command with treats. Then command with only lots of praise. Also, you need to do this in several different places so the dog knows the command means the same thing no matter where you are. A fun thing to do is after the dog learns the commands, try sitting in a chair and giving the commands. It's amazing how many dogs don't realize its the same command just because you are sitting down first.

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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 02:58 PM
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Maybe she is confused about the down because of the nail trimming. Maybe when she first goes for the down (before she rolls over) you can ask her to "wait" or "stay" to try and get her to hold that position. Maybe show her the treat before she rolls over?
I would also try treating her when trying to train her for this particular command until she gets it.
Good luck!

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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by pyratemom View Post
While you are still luring her into a down make sure you have a treat in your hand. When you can add a verbal command and then minimize the luring with the treat you know it's working but take your time. Are you starting with a treat in your hand at eye level and then in a swooping motion moving the treat down between the front legs and feet? That usually gets them in a down. When they finally get in the down, lots of praise and treats. "good down, etc" Then minimize the hand motion and still lots of praise and treats. Then gradually minimize to only a command with treats. Then command with only lots of praise. Also, you need to do this in several different places so the dog knows the command means the same thing no matter where you are. A fun thing to do is after the dog learns the commands, try sitting in a chair and giving the commands. It's amazing how many dogs don't realize its the same command just because you are sitting down first.
Thanks, I'll try this.

Courtney M.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Bear GSD View Post
Maybe she is confused about the down because of the nail trimming. Maybe when she first goes for the down (before she rolls over) you can ask her to "wait" or "stay" to try and get her to hold that position. Maybe show her the treat before she rolls over?
I would also try treating her when trying to train her for this particular command until she gets it.
Good luck!
I just remembered when I started training down Raina used to roll over like she was going to get a belly rub. I started saying, Down - then as she would start to roll over swing my hand in a circular motion the direction of the correct position and say "No, down" again. She got it pretty quickly. Now she knows "show me your belly" and "down" are two separate things.

Teri

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Snake Vom Eselspfad RN CGC (AKA Raina) 3/5/08
Pyrate CGC 4/1/03-5/16/12 RIP
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 03:23 PM
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I do it a bit differently than pyratemom. I initially lure with a treat, but as soon as the dog is consistently following the treat and dropping into a down (mark and deliver the treat), usually in the first or second short training session, I get the food out of that hand, use the lure motion with an empty hand, and then reward with the other hand. The lure motion then becomes your hand signal for that command. I don't even worry about naming it yet, a verbal cue can be added later.

What you can run into if you continue using a food lure past the point where it's absolutely necessary is that it becomes a secondary cue, and the dog only obeys when you have food in your hand. That's why it's important to fade that out early.

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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 03:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaia_bear View Post
The current class we are in is completely praise/toy reward based so I've been trying to keep the training with treats at home very minimal, she loves playing tug so it's working out pretty good for us all except for the down.
I would use whatever works for your dog. If she's highly motivated to work for praise, terrific, but most dogs need more than that. Toys are great, but it can be difficult to get in as many repetitions with a toy compared to food.

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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Cassidy's Mom View Post
I would use whatever works for your dog. If she's highly motivated to work for praise, terrific, but most dogs need more than that. Toys are great, but it can be difficult to get in as many repetitions with a toy compared to food.
Not to take away from what you are saying, I do agree with it. But I love the idea of a praise-only class. From my experience, too many trainers drill in your mind that food should be used to shape behaviors, and it does becomes the focus of a class, if you run out of food in a class then good luck, not to mention a better treat in someone else's hand is a big distraction. I can't count how many times it's happened to me, though I am working through sparse treating in that setting.

The Monks of New Skete have a wonderful approach for training, and I base a lot of what I do from their lectures and literature. You need to be truly sincere in praise, be extremely positive, really keep training short, max of twice a day, and always always end on the best effort. It honestly does build a better relationship and better behavior, as it requires much more effort on both sides of the party to keep interested and focused, and certainly does carry through to every other situation. It does help that they are monks and spend 100% of their time with their dogs. But the truth is, many of us do not have time for that bond, and we must use other motivators to train. Because of this, I don't think it is the dog that need more than praise, it is the handler that needs more than that to train.

ETA: I began my training praise only, to shape sit and down was very tough. I ended up having to physically shape the behavior once he learned what it actually meant and would protest it. I don't know if that is recommended, it now seems foolish of me to do it, but that's what Monks had suggested and those were the resources that I had. Of course, they are masters, and I am not even a novice, so taking that advice at face value was probably a mistake.

Last edited by jae; 10-10-2012 at 04:03 PM.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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Not to take away from what you are saying, I do agree with it. But I love the idea of a praise-only class. From my experience, too many trainers drill in your mind that food should be used to shape behaviors, and it does becomes the focus of a class, if you run out of food in a class then good luck, not to mention a better treat in someone else's hand is a big distraction. I can't count how many times it's happened to me, though I am working through sparse treating in that setting.

The Monks of New Skete have a wonderful approach for training, and I base a lot of what I do from their lectures and literature. You need to be truly sincere in praise, be extremely positive, really keep training short, max of twice a day, and always always end on the best effort. It honestly does build a better relationship and better behavior, as it requires much more effort on both sides of the party to keep interested and focused, and certainly does carry through to every other situation. It does help that they are monks and spend 100% of their time with their dogs. But the truth is, many of us do not have time for that bond, and we must use other motivators to train. Because of this, I don't think it is the dog that need more than praise, it is the handler that needs more than that to train.

ETA: I began my training praise only, to shape sit and down was very tough. I ended up having to physically shape the behavior once he learned what it actually meant and would protest it. I don't know if that is recommended, it now seems foolish of me to do it, but that's what Monks had suggested and those were the resources that I had. Of course, they are masters, and I am not even a novice, so taking that advice at face value was probably a mistake.
It has been A LOT of work on my part. I've had to keep all my frustrations to a bare minimum but I can see it paying off a lot faster than my previous class, most of the results are most likely coming from her age (6-7mos opposed to 4-5mos) but I feel as if she's working for me rather than whatever I'm hiding in my pockets. She's more eager to please me and much more focused.

I do have to agree that shaping a down has been near impossible so it's time to dig the treat bag out and start at square one again. Would it be feasible to start with the treat and phase into a toy reward after a couple training sessions?

Courtney M.
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 04:17 PM
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I've always started with 'sit' and then shaped the 'down' from there. At least that way they aren't standing when I'm trying to teach this. I may teach Grim 'down' on the kitchen floor because it's not carpet, and he likes to 'slide' into a down out there. I haven't given too much time to this one, yet, but I've also found that he's too interested in biting at my hands to realize that I'm trying to tell him something. I think starting with 'sit' will help with this, too.

I doubt you're seeing submission. (Unless you have seen submission in this pup so far) It's likely that she's remembering the nail trim or even possibly asking for tummy rubs. If you're not seeing the response you want... and she's fighting you even with a treat, go with a higher value treat. Something with a heavy smell to follow that hand down.

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