New year, new dog part III

The next basic command to add to your dog’s daily training regimen is “down,” which prompts him to move from a standing or sitting position to lying on the ground. As with the command “sit,” this command can be used in conjunction with “stay.”

Start by training him to go from a standing position to “down” position. With your dog on the leash, have him heel a few paces, then stop and give the command “down.” He will likely not do anything, although some dogs will automatically sit. In either case you need to show him again. Do so by wrapping your left arm securely around your dog’s shoulders. Take hold of his left front leg with your left hand, then grab his right front leg with your right hand. Gently lift his legs up and ease him into position on the ground, all the while saying “down” in a firm and steady voice.

Return to the beginning of the drill – heeling a few paces, stopping, and giving the command, with some physical help if necessary – repeating the command as you show him to position.

Once he has the hang of it, add the “stay” command. Again, as soon as he drops into the down position, pivot around on your left foot so you are facing the dog. Hold your hand flat out over his muzzle and say “stay” firmly and repeatedly, putting him back into position each time he tries to stand up. The initial goal should be five seconds, increasing to three minutes.

As a reminder, keep these daily training sessions to about 15-30 minutes. The key is repetition, not overload.

Recommended book: Puppy’s First Steps: The Whole-Dog Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, Well-Behaved Puppy, edited by Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, with Lawrence Lindner (Houghton Mifflin, $24.95)

Originally in print Jan. 21, 2008.