Training
August 26, 2023

3 Ways to Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

Teaching your dog to lie down is a valuable skill to have in your repertoire. In this article, we'll cover the pros, cons, and how-tos of the 3 most common ways to teach this skill.

Kristen VanNess
Doodle puppy laying down

Teaching your dog to lie down is a valuable skill to have in your repertoire.  It can not only keep your dog safe, but can be a great building block for other skills later on. There are 3 common ways to teach your dog to lie down; capturing, luring, and using a bridge. We'll go over the pros and cons and how-tos for each of them.

Puppy learning to lie down

Capturing

Capturing is a dog trainer favorite! It initially requires patience but gives excellent long-term results and has many practical applications besides just a dog who lies down on command.

Sit in a quiet area and observe your dog while you pretend to watch tv, call a friend on the phone, read, or do some other task. When your dog eventually chooses to lie down, praise him and toss a treat. You can also incorporate this into everyday life. 

He might get up to get the treat, that’s ok. It gives him a chance to lie down again. These sessions can be short, or it might be the length of a tv show.

Dogs usually catch on after a week or two and lie down deliberately to earn a reward. At this stage, you can add a cue

We can use capturing for any behavior in a dog’s natural repertoire. This doesn’t work well in the exciting environment of a group class but can be great at home. All dogs lie down at some point in the day!

Lure Your Dog to Lie Down

With your dog standing, take the treat from his nose and slowly move it towards his chest and to the ground. Make sure to move the treat slowly. Most families move the treat too quickly and get a dog who backs up rather than slowly folding. 

With some dogs, this is a gradual process, and we have to start with rewards for lowering the head, then folding the elbows, then the elbows touching the ground, then the back legs folding. This might take a week or two, and that’s ok!

If your dog stands up or moves away, stop letting him lick the treat. Encourage him back and try again with a slower motion. 

This is a popular method in class because it can get quick results. A downside is that you need to fade out the lure. We show two strategies for fading the lure

Many training resources recommend dogs to sit before lying down, but that adds an extra step which can be inconvenient for dogs and people. Your dog can learn to lie down from a stand. 

Use a Chair or Leg Bridge

Find a chair with a low rung. Encourage your dog to nibble a treat and lower his head under the rung or even to stretch a front paw. Think about a dog trying to get a toy out from under the couch - many dogs will go into a bow position or lie down. We’re trying to get the same motion. Reward your dog for any partial attempts of his head on the floor or elbows getting closer to the ground. Once he’s in a bow position, let him keep nibbling, he will eventually lie down!

After a few sessions, many dogs will immediately lie down with the treat prompt. You can then try to do this activity next to the chair and eventually on the open ground. At that point, it looks more like the lure example we gave in the above section. 

If you can’t find a chair that is the right height, you can use your leg as a bridge. Sit on the floor and put one or both legs out in front. Raise your knees off the ground to make a small tunnel for your dog’s head. Never squish your dog down with your legs - but you may choose to adjust the height of the tunnel between repetitions.

Need Additional Help?

Some dogs are a little more tricky than others due to their excitement level, sensitive skin, or not feeling safe. We can help you adjust these activities or add other variations for your dog as needed. We know your dog can learn this skill. Please reach out if you need training help for your dog. Have fun training!