What To Do If Your Dog Keeps Sitting Up During a “Down” Command.

The “Down” command is the most important of all commands to establish because it’s the position of most humility. When studying the dynamics of a dog pack, you’ll notice that the dog that lies down and even rolls over in front of another dog is the more submissive one. So, training your dog to willingly lie down at your command – and not break the command until you give him the proper release (see my DVDs) – establishes you as the authority in the relationship.

Some dog owners might bulk at this leader/follower hierarchy. Essentially, they just want to be “friends” with their dog, so they hesitate to exercise any control over their pet’s will. The problem with this is that this is NOT how canines think and operate. Befriending your dog in the hope that he’ll comply because of your kindness will quickly lead to all kinds of problems as your dog increasingly takes advantage of the lack of rules and boundaries.

Establishing a leader/follower relationship with your dog is nothing to be afraid of or feel guilty about. It’s natural. It’s what every canine is born into, and if you take over the role of the pack leader from his mother from the very moment you pick up your pup, life will go very well.

This doesn’t mean your dog won’t at times try to test you. This is especially true of dogs with dominant personalities. These are the dogs that would normally establish themselves as the leader (or at least sub leader) of a dog pack. One common way for your dog to try your resolve is by sitting up after you’ve put him in a “Down” position.

The first step in properly dealing with this little (yet significant!) act of rebellion is to recognize that sitting up out of a “Down” is a conscious choice on behalf of your dog. He knows he’s choosing to break the command before receiving permission from you to do so. This point may sound silly and way too obvious, but it’s surprising how many people try to justify situations using human emotionalism. They’ll say (or at least think) things like the following:

“Oh, he’s tired of being in the position.”

“At least he’s still in the same spot. He hasn’t walked away.”

“Oh, he doesn’t like it when I ask him to stay and then walk away too far.”

“He got distracted by….”

Yes, of course, you do need to stick to the program I lay out in my Perfect Dog system. For example, I do caution everyone to mindful of building your dog’s skill level and patience gradually. So then, if your dog is regularly sitting up out of downs because of something you’re doing incorrectly (or because of something you’re not doing), it is absolutely unfair to keep correcting your dog.

A simple example of this is when dog owners jump ahead way too fast and expect their dogs to cope with remaining in a “Down/Stay” for twenty minutes on Day #2 of training in amongst all kinds of distractions and at a distance of fifty feet. Well, maybe that’s not a common expectation, but you get my point: If you’re not properly and thoroughly applying the training principles, don’t expect your dog to properly comply.

Now, if you’ve ruled out the above as a possible cause of your dog breaking commands then you need to rest on the principle that your dog has no acceptable excuses for sitting up out of a “Down” – or for breaking or ignoring any command at any time. (Save for, of course, unexpected occurrences e.g. a tree branch falls and lands next to your dog, frightening him out of position.) Once you’ve got this in your head, you’ll easily identify and effectively deal with all acts of defiance – even the really subtle ones (stay tuned for more Blog posts about these).

If you need more specifics then review the steps below, and please remember that the success of my Nature-Based Discipline, Praise, and Play Method is based upon proper balance of all three elements of the training.

Always love them, but never stop leading them! – Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”


To spell it out for you, when you put your dog in a “Down/Stay” and he sits up (but doesn’t walk away from the location) then you still need to correct your dog.

 These are the steps:

 1) Calmly walk back to your dog. Don’t look him directly in the eyes as you approach him.

 2) Correct your dog (using the Command Collar and Freedom Training Line as per my DVD demonstrations) back into the “Down” position.

 3) Remember one of my Golden Rules: Don’t repeat the “Down” verbal command. This is very important. If you don’t know why this is important then you need to review the “Golden Rules” section on DVD #1 – and you probably need to review most of the rest of the DVDs, too.

 4) Give your “Stay” command again. Remember: That’s the only command you repeat.

 5) Walk away. The distance you walk will depend on the stage you’re at with the training.

 6) If your dog sits up again, repeat the above steps, but increase the firmness of your correction this next time. Remember my Golden Rule about tailoring the level of corrections according to the strength of will of your individual dog. If you don’t remember, or even if you’re unsure, I offer the same advice: Review the “Golden Rules” section on DVD #1 – and you probably need to review most of the rest of the DVDs, too.

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