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How To Train A Dog To Down At A Distance
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How to Train a Dog to Down at a Distance

Teaching a dog to down at a distance from you is a handy behavior. When we train Search and Rescue dogs this can be a life saving skill. In fact, it is one of the behaviors that is required for certification of a Search and Rescue dog. When you can stop your dog at a moments notice the dog can be kept away from danger. When training your pet, the down from a distance command can keep your dog from running into traffic or chasing an unwanted critter. Granted this skill must be well entrenched in the dogs mind to keep it from chasing a squirrel but I'm sure that a skunk encounter will make you wish your dog was familiar with this skill.

Learning how to train a dog to lie down at a distance from you takes a bit of work but is a skill well worthwhile. Start off by teaching your dog the down command. I have covered this in another article, if you need assistance, follow the links at the end of the article for detailed instruction. A reliable down command should allow you to step out in front of your dog, signal the down command by raising your Right hand directly up over your head( like you are waving to a friend on the next hill) and you should see your dog drop into a down position. Return around your dog while it is down then release with a huge party. I use the work "Yahoo!" to release. This is a term not usually heard in normal conversation and you can make it really exciting easily.

Tell the dog to stay and step out about 3 feet in front of the dog. Give the down command again. If the dog goes down great. If the dog comes to your feet and then goes down, step in and loom over the dog while it goes down. Then step back to the place you started and wait for a count of ten to allow the dog to get used to being down with you a distance away. Repeat this scenario returning to your dog each time it goes down successfully. Move a few feet further away each time the dog responds to the down command. Cut the distance in half each time the dog makes a mistake.

Now that the dog is going down at a distance from you, you need to mix it up a bit. Repeat the down command when standing at a distance from the dog. Occasionally call the dog from the down and have it sit in front of you. Try to keep it random. Change the distance, sometimes call the dog sometimes return to the dog. When you seem to have good responses each and every time, it's time to up the ante again.

Now you are going to have the dog sit, call it to you and when it is about half way to you, give it the down command. This is hard for the dog sometimes it will go down immediately, sometimes the dog will come to your feet then down. If it comes in before downing, return to the original starting point and work through all of the previous drills. Your dog has not learned to down at a distance yet. Keep at it, you will get there. Make sure after all of this you call the dog to you without the down command. Keep the dog guessing what you are going to do by making it random.

Learning how to train a dog to down from a distance takes persistence. Break up the training into small sessions and keep it fun. If your dog seems to be getting down, stop and do something fun. Teach a roll over, do some circles, toss a ball, anything that will break the dog out of its funk. You can come back later and work on the down from a distance skill when you both are in a better mood. Enjoy your time with your dog and this skill will come together.


Street Talk

Have a senior labrador who will not lie down at distance. Will be trying out these tips. Thanks very much.

Reply
  about 5 years ago

One of my friends just got 11 small dogs, probably these tips will be helpful for him a lot, thanks for sharing, i will give him advise about the positive rewards too, this would help him a lot.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

Wow, 11 is a lot of work. Check out my Blog. Find it in my profile page under Labman. Lots of good training tips there.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Nice tutorial. I have a dog but I think she's too old to be trained. I wish I can use these tricks on my cat. It is so hard to train her so I eventually gave up. :)

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

The old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks is FALSE. I started working with one of my dogs when she was 11. She did her best in everything and learned about 10 new tricks. She even attempted some that were beyond her physical abilities. She was an old dog. No dog is ever too old to learn, in fact, they appreciate the brain work. Cats are another story, they are somewhat trainable but you need to be verrrrrry patient with them. Treats work very well. Pounce is my favorite for working with cats. They put a little kitty crack in each one.(Catnip is a real motivator for cats, Pounce adds a bit to each tidbit)

Reply
  about 6 years ago

I like what you say about enjoying the dog. I expect dogs like to have fun as much as we do. Learning the skill is important, though. Good suggestions.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
  

Thanks Steve, there have been several studies done in the recent past that indicate a dog will learn and retain much better when positive rewards are used. Fun is always a positive reward for the dogs.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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