How Do We Stop Our Dog From Doing “Down” Commands Under Our Legs?

QUESTION:

We just recently started your Perfect Dog program (about 3 days now). We are working with two dogs and we’re struggling with the “Down” command. The youngest dog (about 6 months) wants to be constantly under our feet regardless of how much length of line we allow her. We can’t get a reasonable distance from her in order to give the command. And, when we give the command she slowly crawls under our feet, turns and lays down. We’re wondering if you have any suggestions on how to handle this behavior? Thanks!

– Denise

ANSWER:

This is a subtle avoidance tactic your dog is using to try to get out of having to fully and properly obey the command. I come across it many times with all kinds of dogs.

First, try blocking your dog from going underneath your legs or from leaning up against you. If blocking is not sufficient then increase things by giving her a shove with the side of your leg/knee, or even bend down and use your hands if necessary. She needs to learn to perform the command confidently and obediently on her own next to you (and not underneath or on top of you), and you need to use a level of correction (for trying to hide) that is sufficient to discourage her.

Once you’ve solved the “under the legs” problem, you’ll be able to work on the distance issue. If your dog continues to try to stay too close to your legs, preventing you from creating any kind of distance between you and her, again use your foot/leg to bump her back slightly before walking away a few steps and then giving the command. Over time, you’ll be able increase the distance until you even reach the point where your dog is doing long distance downs (demonstrated on my Perfect Dog DVDs).

NOTE: Remember the golden rule that if your dog continues the unacceptable behavior following a correction then the correction is not strong enough to motivate the dog to change, so you need to keep increasing the level of the physical correction (but not the tone of your voice) until it reaches a level that is sufficiently discouraging. This golden rule works across the board with all unacceptable behaviors.

– Don Sullivan

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