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The impossible down

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Since "down" is a nesissary part of just about every single thing everyone on this board does with their dog, someone has to have a different angle they can give me.

 

Sita will not learn "down," for the life of me. :rolleyes: It isn't as if the girl is slow. She has learned everything else after 2-3 repetitions. I know there is a communication error going on here that I do not have with any of the dogs. I am perplexed. I have taught dog after dog and puppy after puppy, and not one has ever given me the "WTF do you want?" look that Sita keeps giving me.

 

I have tried the typical guide with the treat, many times, with many increasingly fabulous treats. I even tried to place her in a down, but she wanted nothing to do with that and thought down must = bucking bronco impression. I have since taught 2 other dogs down, spent a week tightening up down from afar with Ceana and Poke, so I don't think I am just not making dog sense. I just make no sense to Sita.

 

-Sigh- Does anyone have a different angle they can shed some light on for me?

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I've worked with several dogs that have trouble with going down. There are a few different methods I use depending on the dog. In no particular order:

 

1. Catch the down. Observe her during the times she normally lays down and reward it

 

2. Tunnel method. If the dog follows a treat, lead the dog under something such as your hand or your leg. Reward when elbows hit.

 

3. Sit and wait. With some dogs, you can put the treat on the ground in your hand and have them figure out what makes your hand open.

 

4. Shape the behavior. I usually do this with dogs that give up on the treat. What I want them to do is follow the treat to the floor, so I'll start out bring the treat down to about the dog's chest and reward. Gradually, I'll make the time the dog has to keep his/her down longer and longer, and lower and lower. Once that is accomplished, I'll start rewarding any bending of the legs, and then more bending, and so on. The end result, and usually it can be accomplished in 1-2 sessions, is a dog that will follow the treat to the floor and down.

 

5. Position the treat differently. Some dogs work well if you bring the treat to the floor and slowly move it away from them, others work better if you push the treat toward the dog's chest, and others still like a "wrap around" where you bring the treat to the dog's side and push it under the tummy between their front and back legs.

 

Hope that helps. I might be able to take some video if you're confused on any of them. Good luck!

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When I got Jackson as a pup, a handler gave me this advice to teach a down. Put a lead on them, hold lead and give the down command, and then step on lead getting the dogs head about half way down and hold. Repeat command dog to down and wait. Dog should lie down as it will take preasure off of dog. Release dog and praise right after you get it to down. If your dog bucks and does a crazy version of the twist when preasure is put on lead, you will need to get more work done with lead. The dog should already understand "follow the lead", so to say. Hope this helps, it worked wonders with Jackson and Skip.

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Since "down" is a nesissary part of just about every single thing everyone on this board does with their dog, someone has to have a different angle they can give me.

 

Sita will not learn "down," for the life of me. :rolleyes: It isn't as if the girl is slow. She has learned everything else after 2-3 repetitions. I know there is a communication error going on here that I do not have with any of the dogs. I am perplexed. I have taught dog after dog and puppy after puppy, and not one has ever given me the "WTF do you want?" look that Sita keeps giving me.

 

I have tried the typical guide with the treat, many times, with many increasingly fabulous treats. I even tried to place her in a down, but she wanted nothing to do with that and thought down must = bucking bronco impression. I have since taught 2 other dogs down, spent a week tightening up down from afar with Ceana and Poke, so I don't think I am just not making dog sense. I just make no sense to Sita.

 

-Sigh- Does anyone have a different angle they can shed some light on for me?

 

Something that has worked in the past for me involves 2 or more other dogs who will "down" reliably. Get the three of them to come to you and "down" the two who already know it. Do them one at a time and praise lavishly and reward with something scrumptious. Use a hand signal and a falling inflection on the other two dogs, even if they don't need it. Then try Sita. If she "downs" great! Reward and praise. If not, do the other dogs one at a time and really pour on the praise for compliance. Usually the "straggler" will down on the second or third round. Greed, jealousy, whatever - it just seems to motivate them to see the others being made over and treated. If it doesn't work you're no worse off, and the others will think it's Xmas!

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I have a friend who had this problem and tied the dog back with the tie fairly close to the ground. Then she went infront of the dog and over exagerated bringing her hand up high, then to the ground and would reward as the dog lowered it's body. Then as the dog built confidence she would wait for the dog to lay closer to the ground until rewarding. She continued this until the dog would down all the way and then removed the leash. It seemed to work well, as the dog tried to come forward for the treat the leash that was tieing him back would apply pressure so the dog naturally leaned down to try to reach the treat.

 

good luck

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Capture it! Definitely works, and once you get it, you've got it. Use a clicker, or a verbal marker I suppose but a clicker would probably work more quickly, sit down with something to read, disguised treats in a bowl that she can't get to, clicker in your hand idle, moderately tired puppy on a leash. Ignore puppy. Wait as long as it takes. When she lays down, click out of nowhere and treat a bunch of times while she's still laying down. Then toss one, or if she gets up, then go back to your reading and puppy ignoring. Continue for about ten minutes and stop, even if she doesn't seem to be understanding, just be patient and try another session later. Keep doing sessions like that until she's offering the downs immediately after you click and treat the ones before. I did this with my puppy-- actually, I haven't used a single lure with her, and she was a very quick study.

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I've got sympathy for you! It took forever to teach Kipp to down - like almost a year! I just couldn't get him to relax enough to go down and I eventually just let it go for a while. I forget what eventually worked, but he does have a great down on him now. For your pup capturing it would probably work the best, especially since she picks things up so quickly.

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I'm with Dixie Girl--I've always used the step-on-the-leash method. I learned it from the Guide Dogs folks many years ago. It has ALWAYS worked extremely quickly and well. Don't know about the OP, but I don't have time to sit around and wait for a dog to do the thing I want and then do all that treating business. Teach it and move on,

A

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Robin is a difficult downer as well. He'll hit the deck immediately if he sees a treat in my hand or is lined up with Ladybug and Brodie - two of the suggestions on this thread. I've also marked the behavior with a clicker but for the CGC, no treats no clicker, no pulling on the leash so we're no working on the command without supports. I ask him to lie down and he turns his head and gives me a view of that beautiful profile! I use positioning then...it's just a battle of wills. When he wants to he will, when he doesn't, he gives me a hard time. You'll never catch him rolling over on his tummy easily either...we're working on this too.

 

I paid a visit to a local trainer and she suggested watching the tone of my voice....making sure it was low, firm and confident instead of implying the question, are you going to lie down this time?

 

Another thing I did to get him used to sit, down, etc. in different conditions is make him perform each activity before I kick the soccer ball for him to chase. He goes down pretty readily because he knows he's going to get a reward - chasing the ball.

 

I don't know if it made any difference or he just caught on, but when I was working with him on "heel", he just wouldn't do it...he pulled and pulled all the while I was yellng "Heel!" Frustrated, I took a break to think about another course of action... I took him off the leash, changed the command to 'get in line" and baited him with treats. I also use the same command when we're playing with the soccer ball (otherwise the ball would hit him right in the chest) and now when on leash and he gets ahead of me, i stop and say get in line, and he comes right back to my side.

 

Liz

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I'm with Dixie Girl--I've always used the step-on-the-leash method. I learned it from the Guide Dogs folks many years ago. It has ALWAYS worked extremely quickly and well. Don't know about the OP, but I don't have time to sit around and wait for a dog to do the thing I want and then do all that treating business. Teach it and move on,

A

 

I've used this with several dog just fine, but when I tried this with Kipp he literally braced himself against it. I don't know what in the world was up with him or maybe I was doing something wrong?? Since he had a solid sit, I just used sit for a long time. I don't remember how "down" finally clicked for him but when he got it, the lightbulb came on and I didn't have any issues with it after that.

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"responding to ejano's question"

 

 

 

Since he will do a down when you have a treat then you need to work on not always giving a treat during training sessions. I always click treat, 100% of the time when my dogs are first learning a behavior, and then when I know they have it down, I click for every good behavior but only treat occasionally, and you also want to vary the type and amount of reward. Your dog always should be wondering if they are going to get a treat, a Good treat or A LOT of treats (Jackpot). Once they are doing the behavior for just a click (and hopefully a reward). Then you should be able to phase out the clicker, when you need to.

 

I have also done the leash way with previous dogs, but none of them had nearly as quick of a down as Maya's down (she has never been forced into a down), she hits the deck lightening fast because to her it a fun game with a reward, not something she HAS to do otherwise she will be punished.

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-Sigh- Does anyone have a different angle they can shed some light on for me?

 

If you aren't opposed to a reinforcement based approach, here is a different angle you might try.

 

Get a mat - any kind of mat will do, but make sure it doesn't slide on the surface on which you are working. Get a bunch of treats that throw well (so cheese on a fuzzy carpet might not be the best choice! I like kibble on a hard floor so the dog can hear it clatter). If you use a clicker, have it ready. If you don't, use a distinct marker word like "x".

 

Toss a treat to send your dog away from you and then sit on the floor in front of the mat. That's important.

 

Once your dog has gotten the treat, wait for him or her to return to your locale. At first click (or mark) and reward her just for returning to where you are. Toss another treat and repeat this a few times.

 

After doing that a few times wait, after your dog has returned, until the dog makes some contact with the mat. Any contact is fine - a single paw, multiple paws, or maybe you'll get lucky and get a down right away. I did this with all four of my dogs and all four were different. Dean gave me the instant down, Sammie just one paw. Click (or mark) that contact, give your dog one treat and then release and toss another to send the dog away.

 

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

 

If your dog is not already offering a down on the mat, do this for a few days and then lengthen the time that you wait after your dog returns to you. As long as the dog does not get frustrated, wait for a sit or a down. If you get a sit or down, click (or mark), jackpot, and then toss a treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

 

Now, if you aren't getting a down already, after a few days of rewarding the sit, wait your dog out once you have the sit. For some dogs, this can take a bit of thought process. Others will get it almost instantly. The fact that you are still sitting next to the mat helps.

 

Once the dog has chosen to lie down on his or her own (it doesn't matter if the dog is straight, crooked, all the way on the mat, or mostly off), click (or mark), jackpot, and toss.

 

At this point, you will only reward the down. Once the dog is offering a down every single time, repeat the process, sitting in a chair. It will go much faster this time. Once the dog is offering a down every single time, stand and repeat the process. Again, it will go much faster.

 

Once it has become a strong default in the context of this game, you can name it. I would give it a different name if your dog has been struggling with "down". I use "splat" as a fast, "splat down" behavior. I found that once my dog knew it on the mat, I simply started to cue it in new situations, without the mat, and the dog understood. I even added distance to this.

 

The difference between this approach and the traditional training of the down using a treat (which I also use with some dogs in some situations) is that the dog is learning it in the context of a game and he or she actually learns the behavior without even realizing it. This is good for a dog who is stuck on the behavior. And since you aren't using a lure, you don't have to fade it, which can be a challenge for a dog who struggles with a behavior.

 

Hope that helps.

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I've got a usefull type working dog here that you'd have waited a long time for the force method to work. His sire was the same way, and took a lot of abuse for it where he was being worked until he was sold to somebody with a different way to train. They are both good, reasonbly biddible dogs on stock and off, except about lying down. The more you try to make them, the harder they push back. They don't bite or fight back - they just lock up and would rather choke or just flat die than give.

 

I wised up with mine before it go to the point of no return with the pressure and broke the relationship. It took about 10 minutes to train him to down with a clicker and food - just free shaping. (he was already "loaded" from games we played as pup). After that we went on with normal standards stockdog pressure/release training methods.

 

I've never seen a dog like him since, but I sure appreciated the lesson he taught me. When something's really not working and getting worse - _you_ need to change, not the dog.

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Great post, Wendy. It's good to get confirmation from experienced stock trainers that sometimes, "all positive" methods ARE the fastest and most efficient way to teach something. Until we started taking stock lessons, I taught Odin almost everything this way and it was nearly always faster than any other methods I tried, so I'm often taken aback when I hear, "I don't have time to use the clicker/treats/positive methods". I'm sure that has something to do with my own inexperience with timing and corrections, though. Whatever works best for you and the dog in question is right!

 

It's weird, Odin loved downs from day 1, and preferred them to sit immediately. Still does. If I say sit, he does, but if most other people say sit, he lies down. Funny how they have these preferences!

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It's weird, Odin loved downs from day 1, and preferred them to sit immediately. Still does. If I say sit, he does, but if most other people say sit, he lies down. Funny how they have these preferences!

 

Dean is the same way. His down is so strong that we have had to work a lot on him differentiating a sit. He is getting much better with offering the sit on cue for me (he has it close now, but not at a distance yet), but if anyone else asks him to sit, more often than not he splats down. It drives my husband nuts. He'll say, "Dean, sit". Dean will lie down, Ben will say, "that's splat, not sit" and then proceed to reward him!! It's rather comical because he really doesn't get why Dean keeps lying down whenever he tells him to sit.

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I've got a usefull type working dog here that you'd have waited a long time for the force method to work. His sire was the same way, and took a lot of abuse for it where he was being worked until he was sold to somebody with a different way to train. They are both good, reasonbly biddible dogs on stock and off, except about lying down. The more you try to make them, the harder they push back. They don't bite or fight back - they just lock up and would rather choke or just flat die than give.

 

I wised up with mine before it go to the point of no return with the pressure and broke the relationship. It took about 10 minutes to train him to down with a clicker and food - just free shaping. (he was already "loaded" from games we played as pup). After that we went on with normal standards stockdog pressure/release training methods.

 

I've never seen a dog like him since, but I sure appreciated the lesson he taught me. When something's really not working and getting worse - _you_ need to change, not the dog.

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I was going to suggest shaping the behavior with a clicker, but I see several others have already suggested it. I agree that there are some behaviors that I don't have time to shape (I need compliance now), but a down is not one of them. If you play shaping games at all with your dogs, she will recognize the game and willingly play along. So, it doesn't need to be a sit and wait around kind of deal. It could be a fun game for you and your dog to play together. I know all three of my dogs get extremely excited when they know we are going to play "the shaping game." Most of what we do when playing the shaping game is teach tricks or just silly, meaningless behaviors that are fun to teach but not necessary to know (e.g., one of my dog, Milo's, favorite behaviors he learned through shaping was pick up an item and toss it in the air, LOL).

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Yep, capture/shape it. Bet you'll have it in less than 30 minutes.

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I would also shape the behavior. Root Beer's instructions to go to place on the mat is what I would suggest.

 

I also shaped a down as Colt's default behavior. He will give it to me before we open any doors, before I put his food down, when we stop on the leash to chat with someone, etc. etc., without me giving a cue. Very handy.

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I saw this one on "It's Me or the Dog". Sit on the floor with one knee up. Then using a treat, entice her to "crawl" through the opening between your knee and the floor. She'll have to get down to crawl through and get the treat. I'm also a big fan of the capture though. Minnie learned all kinds of neat stuff with that method in only a few tries.

 

Jill has the opposite issue. She much prefers, the down position to the sit position, and will seldom hold the sit for very long. Since I think a proper down is more crucial, it's not something I dwell on.

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I am happy to report that we have got a down. I used a combo of everyone's suggestions and it worked out great! Since we have 5 dogs, three of which are 6 months old, Sita and I decided to take a moment to ourselves while everyone else was playing frisbee. I atempted to wait and capture, but she was way too excited knowing I had the clicker plus we had about 15 minutes before our private time would be discovered. Thus we improvised. I wrestled/placed her into a down. She didn't resist the wrestling because it was fun and every time her tummy hit the gound we clicked, treated, and said down. Three examples was all that it took. I got 10 solid downs after that. We ended with a jack pot treat fest. Thanks guys!

 

Then using a treat, entice her to "crawl" through the opening between your knee and the floor. She'll have to get down to crawl through and get the treat.
She started to go through and then backed up and walked around. She gave me this "Was that all you wanted, it was easy," look. :rolleyes: She just thinks a little bit differently.

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Can I just say that this thread was awesome? I was reading with great interest because we've been trying to get a down out of Vala without success for a couple weeks (she sits and comes and knows her directions and runs where I point and "right" "left" etc but she's been struggling with down). And all these suggestions are working for me too! After reading the last few posts, I pulled out a mat she usually lies down on, rewarding her for toes on it, then sitting (with super high qualities treats, a food she never gets). And then when that capturing stalled out I tried the make her go under the knee thing, near the mat, only I had to use the SHQ treat the first couple times to lure her through - shaping a down basically - so like when she started to crouch she got a treat, and when she went lower another, and then when she went all the way down she got a jackpot. After the first time she downed, I switched to the regular natural balance dog treat sausage stuff and that worked because she already knew what to do. By the fourth time she was downing right away under the knee when the knee went up for the jackpot. I figure after a couple more days of repeating this and lowering the treat value (I was saying "down" too) I will start trying without the knee and just the word and the lure. Vala is smart but seems to get stressed about training if we do too much at once. I worry that previous owners used heavy corrections or something...

 

Anyway yay! Thanks you guys!!! I've NEVER seen her actually do a proper down until this morning! Training her is hard not only because I'm pretty sure she's never had rewards-based training before this, like I said above, so it's not like a dog who has had rewards based training since puppyhood and thus thinks training is super fun. But also because I can't use a clicker... I tried a clicker about a week and a half ago and it worked in reverse! When I was tryig to load it, she was so scared of the clicker noise, she began to associate that fear with the treat! And so for a couple days any time I got out treats she would run away and hide! So I'm forced to use voice cues and treats with shaping/capturing. At least for right now.

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Congrats OP!! I redirected my pup with tricks on the trail to lower his anxiety around strangers. I later read Karen Pryor and she said using a behavior that feels good to the dog often works better than a treat. So kudos for the wrestling idea.

 

Pansmom you could try clicking a pen or put the clicker in a pocket which will muffle it?

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I redirected my pup with tricks on the trail to lower his anxiety around strangers. I later read Karen Pryor and she said using a behavior that feels good to the dog often works better than a treat. So kudos for the wrestling idea.

 

I have a reactive foster who I have used a sort of wrestling hold / hug on when I see a jogger coming towards us. He is comfortable with me holding him and it keeps him calm until the person has passed.

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