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I prefer to teach the behavior down from a stand. Most people teach down from a sit but, I find that it creates confusion in the puppy and is a much slower down overall. If we teach the puppy to lie down from a sit, the puppy begins to think that sit is actually part of the down behavior (which it should not be). Many times I have seen an owner give their puppy a down command only to have the puppy sit first and wait for the second down command to actually lie down.
If we teach the puppy to down from a stand, there will be no confusion as to what the final behavior is and the puppy will down much more quickly. Start with your puppy in a standing position in front of you, present a treat lure to his nose. Lure the puppy’s nose straight down to the ground and then push the treat back towards his face and between his front legs saying “down” only once.
At this point, your puppy should lower his front elbows to the ground and this position will resemble a play bow (the puppy’s front elbows on the ground and his rear end sticking up in the air). At this point, hold the treat steady and then slightly push the treat towards his face while still keeping the treat on the ground and your puppy will drop his rear end to the ground. When he is lying down, release the treat and verbally praise him.
Ideally, the puppy will not move his feet when dropping into a down so, if your puppy is backing up excessively, see the problem section. As with sit, remember to only give the command one time so that the puppy will learn to obey on the first command only.
One problem you may encounter is the puppy backing up with his nose to the ground but never folding into a down. This is usually due to you moving the treat too quickly towards the puppy and between his front legs. Take your time and allow the puppy to get used to each position before you start moving the treat. Once your puppy’s nose is on the ground then start slowly pushing the treat towards him along the ground. When he is in the play bow position, hold the treat there and see if the puppy drops on his own. Most of the time he will since it will be more comfortable for him to drop than to stand in a play bow indefinitely. If the drop is happening slowly then try moving the treat towards him further until he lies down.