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Brandon McMillan’s Guide to Teaching Your Dog to Lie Down

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 7, 2020 • 4 min read

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Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Dog training commands are necessary activities that can keep your pooch sharp, obedient, and well-behaved. Teaching your dog basic commands can strengthen your bond, as well as your understanding of one another. While hiring a professional animal trainer or consulting an expert pet behaviorist isn’t necessary, there are many different factors that can influence the way your dog responds to your training system. It’s important to incorporate the best tools and techniques in order to make the most out of training your dog.

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Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog TrainingBrandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Expert animal trainer Brandon McMillan teaches you his simple, effective training system to build trust and control with your dog.

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A Brief Introduction to Brandon McMillan

Brandon McMillan is a renowned animal trainer who has spent most of his life working with domesticated and wild animals. The Emmy Award-winning host of the critically acclaimed CBS series Lucky Dogs comes from a family of wild animal trainers—Brandon began helping raise tigers by the age of four. The animals he’s trained have appeared in countless television commercials and motion pictures, including the comedy blockbuster, The Hangover (2009). In 2016, the successful dog trainer released his first book, Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days. After spending a year training a service dog for an injured combat veteran, Brandon realized his calling was in training dogs to change people’s lives. To further his goals, Brandon co-founded the Argus Service Dog Foundation, an organization that trains service dogs to assist veterans with disabilities.

Brandon McMillan’s Guide to Teaching Your Dog to Lie Down

Brandon’s step-by-step training system revolves around seven commands: sit, down, stay, no, off, come, and heel. While each of these commands is unique, there are certain principles that unite them. The first is the importance of control, the cornerstone of all training. For dog owners who want to teach their dog to lay down, check out this step-by-step guide from successful dog trainer Brandon McMillan:

  1. Get your dog to sit. Teaching your dog to lie down will be easier once your dog learns the sit command. For the down command, start your dog in a sitting position on some form of higher ground: a table, a curb, a couch—somewhere that will allow you to place your treat hand below their body.
  2. Use the right grip. From there, you’ll want to employ the double leash lock off. The leash attached to your dog’s harness will act as an anchor, while the leash attached to their collar can be used to gently lead their head in the direction you want it to go (i.e., down). Once you have your leash grip and your dog in a sitting position, hold your hand near their mouth with a dog treat placed between your first two fingers. You’re now ready to begin the command.
  3. Associate the down cue with the movement. During this dog command, as you say “down”—remember to annunciate—move the training treat away from your dog’s nose and mouth and below their body, guiding them from a sit position toward a down.
  4. Coax your dog down. Continue to say the command and coax your dog’s body downward with the tasty treat until their elbows hit the surface. If they’re stubborn and refuse to go down, wait them out. They eventually give up and lie down out of boredom.
  5. Use positive reinforcement. The first time your dog lies down, reward them with a treat and heavy praise, like petting and saying “good dog.” Continue to reward your dog with treats so long as their elbows remain down while saying “down.”
  6. Reset and repeat. Repeat this basic training session a few times, being careful not to overwork your dog (or yourself). Your dog needs a break between training, and adding too much activity to your sessions won’t make it more effective.
  7. Add distance. As your pup begins to get the down technique, stand up, and add some distance between the two of you. Once your dog masters the pedestal, move to level ground and continue training.
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How to Use the Grab-and-Slide Technique to Teach Your Dog the Down Command

For stubborn dogs who don’t respond to the basic “down” command training, try the grab-and-slide technique:

  1. Hold your dog’s collar. Take your dog’s collar in your left hand and place your left arm over their body, anchoring your elbow on the tabletop.
  2. Guide your dog down. Using your right hand, slip a treat under your dog’s body while simultaneously sliding their front legs out. This will guide your dog into the down position.
  3. Gently keep your dog in the down position. While your dog is in the down position, hover over them with your body to prevent them from standing up (but do not place your body weight on the dog).
  4. Use positive reinforcement. Keep your dog in the down position and pay them with treats over and over while saying the command.
  5. Remove the treats from training. After a couple of sessions training the grab-and-slide technique, you should be able to stand in front of your dog, say “down,” and have them comply with only the verbal command due to conditioning.

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Want to Learn More About Training the Goodest Boy or Girl?

Your dream of having a dog who understands words like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and—crucially—”no” is just a MasterClass All-Access Pass away. The only things you’ll need to train up a well-behaved pup are your laptop, a big bag of treats, and our exclusive instructional videos from superstar animal trainer Brandon McMillan.

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