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I want to start off saying I probably look like an idiot asking such a simple question....but here it goes. Mercury and I have started his classes for him to become a therapy dog. We are still in the obedience part of the classes which I expected to be cake for me.

Merc knows sit, sit/stay, and how to heel really well, but for the life of me I can't get him to understand lay down. I have placed him in a sit and taken a treat and lowered it to the ground in front of him. His front end goes down but his rear pops up. The instructor suggested lowering the treat down between his front legs so he has to lay down with his entire body...and that is exactly what he does...he flops onto his side as if he is playing dead. I have tried having him sit and then pulling his front legs forward so he will be in a proper down position, but he once again flops over onto his side and then often onto his back and just looks at me goofy with his buisness straight up and with a smile on his face. I know he is just confused about what I want but I'm not sure how to show/tell him what I want. He doesn't lay like a sphinx naturally very often either and is usually on his side or back. How can I show him what I want without the rag doll effect?
 

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Teaching the down should ideally be done from the stand because you want a dog to fold back into the down rather than move forward into it.

From a stand, on leash, take a treat and say "Down". Move the treat down between the dog's legs, under the chest and down to the floor. The dog should try to follow the treat and lay down. If he does not, help him by pushing him into place. When his elbows and bottom are down and he is in the sphinx position, break him off and PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE.
 

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I have had a couple of dogs like that, they would roll over on their sides or backs when trying to teach them the "down". One way, as Cbrand said, is as soon as the dogs gets itself nearly into the down position, to give the treat reward, praise and allow the dog to get back up before he ends up on his side. Obviously, this means timing, timing, timing. After the dog gets the idea, you proceed to not giving the treat or praise till his body is laying completely on the floor, as soon as his whole body makes contact with the floor, treat, praise and allow the dog to get up before he flops over.

Remember, if you can't get your dog to do a complete exercise the way it is supposed to be done during training, you can always start with getting your dog to do a partial, in this case a partial lay down, as in getting the front end partly down - before the butt end goes up - and treating and praising. Even if this means only getting him to put his front legs out in front of him and his chest down just a little bit. As he starts to do it consistently, then you up the anti and make him go a bit further down before he gets his treat/praise. If his butt goes up, then you start over, no treat, no praise, but not reprimands either. It is better to do small steps that can be praised than one large step that ends up not what you are wanting.

If all else fails, and you just can't get him to stop flopping on his side, (I had one like that) I ended up having to physically moving him back over onto his belly, repeating the down command and treating. It is best not to manually place the dog, but if you cannot get him to stop flopping over any other way, placing him and treating him immediately when he is on his belly will also get you the final results.
 

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I agree. The way i taught Riley was from a stand, to lower the treat in a back/down motion. I let him nibble on the treat on the way down, and gave the whole thing (with lots of praise) when he was fully down. It did take Riley much longer to get the down then it did the sit (which only took 1 time to show, and then i asked the next time and he did it!). Just be patient and praise!
 
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