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Teaching "Down" to a Dominant Kerry


Tips for teaching "down" (or "lay down") to a Kerry who's dominant, resistant to treats, and too strong to push into down from "sit".

Summarized from the KB-L Newslist by Janet McCallen.Thanks to all who contributed.

Ideas offered include:

  • What works best is for him to down from a standing position, front first (like a bow). I show him the treat and lower my hand, putting it on a touch plate, then if I have to I lean on him w/my arm and shoulder as he goes down. From a sit it's too hard.
  • When he is standing put the treats in your hand and get him interested in it. Then lower your hand back (toward his chest) and to the floor. Keep your hand cupped over the treat just wait. (You haven't given a command so he didn't do anything wrong) As he is trying to get your treat move your hand between his front legs. Move your hand on the floor until he lies down (it may take some time). When he gets down release the treat and give the down command.
  • I would try to go back to the lead under the left foot and pulling upward. Have someone stand on the other side of him as well as in the back, or if you are training at home, back him to a corner. Be patient and just stand there as long as it takes till he gives in. I too had one that did not like the down position, but I stuck with it and the stubborn soul finally gave up. Lots of verbal rewards as opposed to treats, of give him a treat while staying down.
  • I'd tie this into his meals. No trick, then no food. He'll get hungry eventually and realize you truly are his master because you're the one with the food.
  • Position him on one side of a chair, low table, anything he'd have to crawl under (but that's open, with no hanging skirt. (Dining room chair is possible). Offer him the treat on the other side. He will have to go down to get it. And it might have to be a *really* good treat.
  • Did you try to swipe the front legs while in the sit position? I have trained springers that are buggers and we would have to tip them to the side.
  • What are you using for treats? How badly do you want him to learn "down?" When I want my guy to learn a "difficult" behavior (and that's a relative term), I have to "up the ante" - this may mean filet mignon, prime rib, shrimp, liver brownies, etc. Something to REALLY get his attention! Depending on what you're using now, that could mean a jump to meatballs in your case (you don't necessarily have to start with prime rib!). Just remember, the quality of "pay" you give may influence the amount of "work" you get, especially if he thinks he's worth more!
  • For the down, you might try something from Jack Volhard, provided you are pretty sure that Rory understands what "down" means. This would involve physically placing him into a down, from the sit position. To do so, have him on leash, and have him sit. Kneel next to him, on his right side (with him on your left). You can kneel on the leash, if he starts to jump around. Put your left arm over his shoulders. With both your hands OPEN, palms flat and facing forward, AWAY from Rory, put your open hands BEHIND his front legs, and lift his legs up as if he's sitting up to beg, then quickly bring them down flat on the floor. Run your left hand along his shoulder, so that your hand is on top of his shoulders, exerting mild but steady pressure--but don't stroke or pet him. Put your right hand in his collar so that he can't pop up. Give LOTS of QUIET verbal praise, without petting--try to maintain the position, and the continual quiet praise, for 10 or 20 seconds. Then quietly release him, with more praise. (Quiet praise will help him stay calm.)Note that the palms-out, FLAT, OPEN hands are important--you're not grabbing the dog's legs or putting pressure on his legs. The arm over his shoulders communicates your dominance, as does holding your hand on his shoulders once he's lying down.Yes, it sounds like it requires coordination. It does work best if you can do it quickly and smoothly, almost in one motion, so that it's happening almost before the dog can figure what's going on. Practice the movements without the dog, either on a person, or even a large stuffed animal or cushion.
  • Try teaching crawl by lowering your leg and then have your Kerry crawl under. Lower your leg enough so that your guy is down.
  • The best way I've found is to have the dog sitting next to me as if I had just stopped while healing. In other words parallel next to my left foot. Let the leash dangle to the floor, put my left foot over it so I can pull down on the collar (I assume you use a chain slip collar). Now give the command "down" with the first few times pushing on the shoulder blades with your left hand while pulling the leash that is under my left foot with my right hand. While pushing on the shoulder blades go back and forth in a small rocking motion so all the pressure is not on both shoulders at once. I also like to be on a slippery surface so the rear end slide backwards. After few times helping by pushing on the shoulders, transition to just pulling down on the collar with the leash in the above manner with your left hand and use your right hand in the traditional down motion. All of this sounds harder than it is but it has worked with every dog I've used that method on. "Down" is one of the toughest. If used consistently the hand gesture will get the job done faster than the verbal.
  • Treats- bits of beef jerky (about the size of your thumbnail). Start from a sit- it's easier. Hold the treat up so she can see it, then lower it in a straight line all the way to the floor immediately in front of her paws and say "down" as you do it. Pinch the treat in your finger and thumb so she can't get to it at all. Use your other hand to swipe the legs if necessary. Ask three times before taking a 10 second break, then ask again. When she gets to the down position properly, give her the treat- but not before. Ginger caught on to this in about 4 tries- her biggest problem was she would lie down but not stay down, so then I had to only reward her after she had been down for a count of 3. She would lick my fingers and dig at it- she knew the treat was there, but no treat until she held the position.We graduated to pushups eventually- from a sit, from a stand, back to a sit, and then a down, and eventually, she complied.

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