How to Teach a Puppy to Lay Down

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Of all the dog ages, puppies are the quickest learners. Don’t be fooled by those oversized paws and that oh-so-sweet new baby smell: the puppy brain is powerful!

With that big-old brain in that little puppy body just itching to learn new things, where’s the best place to start? With the basics, of course.

For most new puppy parents, getting your floof to plant their butt on the floor in a solid sit is pretty easy. Next on the list: lay down.

This trick is a little more complicated, but we’ve broken it down step-by-step below. All you’ll need is a tasty treat and a clicker to get started.

Pixabay/Pexels

Step one: Teach puppy to sit from a standing position

  1. Hold the treat right at your puppy’s muzzle. They can even lick it a little, but hold on tight so they don’t get it out of your fingers.
  2. Now begin to slowly lift the treat upwards slowly enough so that their muzzle stays glued to it like a magnet. As their nose goes up, their butt will naturally lower to the ground.
  3. As soon as the butt hits the ground, mark it with the word “Yes!” or a clicker and release the treat.

Did your puppy stand on their hind legs to reach the treat instead of planting their butt? Lower your treat and use it to apply a tiny bit of pressure to encourage them to go towards the floor with their hind end instead of standing up.

Shiba Puppy

Shiba Puppy

Step two: Teach puppy to lay down from a sitting position

  1. Grab another treat and hold it at the same place at your pup’s muzzle, allowing them to lick it if they wish.
  2. Slowly lower your hand to the ground so that their muzzle follows along. Stop about an inch from the floor and hold your hand/treat firmly in place. As your pup tries to figure out how to get that treat, most will eventually hit on the idea to lower their body to the ground.
  3. When they lay down, mark the moment with the word “Yes!” or a clicker and release the treat.

If your puppy doesn’t figure it out on their own, they are most likely just confused about what you want. Some pups prefer to lay down flat like a pancake and others curve around like a question mark. You may not know yet which your dog’s tendency is so try both of these tips to see which works better:

Training the flat lay down

  1. Lower the treat straight down to the ground slowly enough so that your pup’s muzzle sticks to it like a magnet.
  2. When you reach the floor, slowly pull the treat backward towards yourself across the floor so that their muzzle stays in contact with it at all times.
  3. When they go flat, mark with a “Yes!” or a clicker and reward.

Training the side lay down

  1. Lower the treat straight down to the ground slowly enough so that your pup’s muzzle sticks to it like a magnet.
  2. When you reach the floor, slowly and gently push your hand towards your pup’s body. They should curve their spine to follow the treat and flop on their side.
  3. When they are fully on the ground, mark with a “Yes!” or a clicker and reward.

How to teach a puppy to stand from a down position

  1. Grab a treat and hold it at your dog’s muzzle.
  2. Slowly pull it back towards yourself keeping your hand at a steady elevation from the floor (so don’t lift your hand up to the sky).
  3. To follow the treat, your pup will have to stand up. When they do, mark it with a “Yes!” or a clicker and reward.

Step five: Teach the puppy push-up

Once your pup is good at the individual parts of the push-up, put them together into a single movement.

  1. With a treat at your dog’s muzzle, slowly lift it so they sit down. Next, without releasing the treat, immediately lower your treat to the ground. When they are in a down, don’t release the treat! Pull it back towards yourself so that your pup stands to follow it. Once they are on their feet, mark with a “Yes!” or a clicker and reward. Repeat at least five times.
  2. Now try the same thing with no treat in your hand. With your empty fingers held in the same position, lift to a sit, lower to a down, then pull back to a stand. Mark with a “Yes!” or a clicker and grab a treat to reward your pup. Repeat at least five times.
  3. Now that they can do the pushup without following the treat, you can name each of the actions. Say “Sit” and lift your hand. When your dog sits, say “Down” and lower your hand to the ground. When your dog lays down, say “Stand” and pull your hand back. When they’re back on their feet, mark with a “Yes!” or a clicker and grab a treat to reward your pup.

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