black and brown dog waling on a sunny beach wearing a yellow collar

Reinforcing Down Position on Mat

Now we’re going to start the second set. This time we’re going to focus on teaching your dog to place squarely on the mat, and subsequently move into a down. Once again, you are holding the leash in your left hand with just a few inches of slack, along with a couple of sticks of food. Hold a pea sized lure in your right hand. You will lure your dog to place two paws on the back end of the mat and mark “good” and reinforce with food. Now lure your dog forward so that they have all four paws on the mat and mark “good” and reinforce with food. Give two or three rewards. Now kneel down and try to lure your dog into a down position. The lure should move from your dog’s nose, straight down in the direction of their toes. If your dog successfully moves into a down position you are going to use a high rate of reinforcement for approximately 10 – 15 seconds. Once you choose to deliver the final reward you will immediately issue the release cue, “all done.” Be sure to give the verbal cue “all done” first — then stand up, step back, drop your shoulder and deliver a single reward. Now set your timer for a 60 second break.

For the remainder of this week you will be kneeling in front of your dog as you reinforce them in a down position. Being at their level will help them hold the behavior, and feel more relaxed. Helping your dog feel as relaxed as possible is a critical component of these initial exercises and this training program as a whole. If you are practicing it this way throughout the week you might also notice that kneeling will become a cue to settle into a down. This is a practical skill to teach since many dogs default to hyper excited behavior whenever people try to sit on the ground.

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