There are several ways to teach your dog to lie down. Choose the one that works best with your dog. Keep in mind that it will be most helpful to your dog if you reward while she is in the down position.
Probably the easiest way to teach your dog to lie down is by using a food lure. Begin with your dog in a sit position. Lure your dog’s nose down toward the floor between her front legs. Keep the food right by her nose but don’t let her eat it. Move the food slowly so she follows it with her nose. At first, just reward your dog for dipping her nose downward toward the floor. After a repetition or two of this, you should find that your dog is following the lure downward more quickly and fluidly. At this point, continue the lure downward to the floor and then continue to draw the treat slowly along the floor away from your dog. Watch for your dog’s front legs to step forward and her shoulders to drop down following her nose toward the floor. At this point, reward. Gradually lure your dog down closer to the ground. The ultimate goal is that your dog will lie down completely onto her elbows before getting the reward.
Sometimes your dog may need a little bit more help than just the lure. Try to lure your dog’s nose under a low obstacle. You can use a chair, coffee table, or even your own legs. As your dog follows the treat under the obstacle, she will naturally lower her neck and shoulders and will often begin to crawl under the obstacle, ending in a down position.You can find other techniques for helping your dog to lie down in our book Through A Dark Silence if you are still having trouble.
Once you are able to get your dog to go into a down position easily, you can begin to introduce a cue. Give the cue right before you help your dog lie down. Then reward while keeping your dog in the down position. After she is finished eating, give your release cue and help her move out of position. You can use the hand motion of the lure to the floor as a visual cue if your dog has enough vision to follow it.
Repeat this sequence for a few sessions. Then give the cue and pause just for a short moment to see if she starts to respond on her own without your help. Be ready to step in and help quickly so the flow is not interrupted, and be sure to reward once she’s down. Over time you will need to help her less and less, but continue to reward once she is down. Don’t forget your release cue to let her know the exercise is finished.