How To Train - The Down:
1) Make sure the dog is on the appropriate lead - in most cases I think this should be a slip lead that applies pressure for a negative behaviour but releases immediately when the dog performs what is asked of it. There are exceptions to this so make sure you get advise from a professional.
2) Make sure that when you start off training the command, as with training anything new you are in a safe environment for you and the dog and there are as few distractions at this stage as possible.
3) Hopefully by now you have a nice heel and sit command secure and working - the principles for this are again the same as before - have the dog in heel on you left hand side on the lead. Have your treat or reward ready. Come to a stop and at the same time say (the dogs name) and down (OR lie down if your prefer) at the same time bend over or crouch down and put your hand with treat/reward in it on the floor - the dog has a great nose and will know the treat/reward is in your hand and will try and lick and scratch etc to get it out - do not allow the dog to have it until the dog is down on the floor then instantly turn your hand over releasing the treat/reward and say “yes”. You cant expect the first ones to be instant or at all straight but practice makes perfect.
4) As the dog learns the command make the time it stays down and still slightly longer by a second each time before it receives treat/reward and “yes”. Eventually you will be able to command down but not have to apply your hand to the floor to get the behaviour when you are at this stage it is very important you give the treat/reward between the dogs front legs to stop the dog anticipating the treat/reward and jumping up out of the down to receive it.
Some Common Problems:
Only the dogs front legs and front of chest are down with my hand on the floor? This is to be expected for the first few downs as the dog learns what you are asking for. To get the bottom to be down too I like to first give the dog time to experiment with positions itself and be completely down to get the reward. Give the dog time to work it out for themselves and learn how to create the reward - don’t keep repeating the command word though, once at the start and a re command after you see a bit of frustration, just to help the dog. If this doesn’t work letting the dog try to work it out for themselves (it wont with all dogs some need help), in this instance give your command and with your left hand just behind the shoulder blades apply pressure down and the dog will go down - instantly repeat down then reward and “yes”.
The dog isn’t straight and turns to look at me? Again a very common problem mainly because we turn to look at the dogs as we ask for the command, so they turn back to face us. Firstly make sure you are keeping straight and looking forward if so and the dog continues to lie down not straight don’t reward the down and just move two paces forwards and re command keep going until they become straighter and then be quick to reward the dog so he knows he is doing something correct by straightening up.
It is a good idea in this situation if you can have somebody help you, while you keep straight and look ahead they can watch the dog and tell you whether the down was straighter and to reward.
If you don’t have someone to help you remember you can use mirrors to help with this or even look in the reflection of window/patio doors.
Remember always reward between the front legs on the floor to stop the dog jumping back out if the down to create its own reward.
The only way to teach the dog a command is repetition repetition repetition - there is no quick system you just have to use the correct method be consistent and stick at it.