Eureka moments in dog training

pug training

Meet little Winston.

He is a 6 month old Pug puppy, and one of my newest clients. A few days ago his owner and I were discussing all the adorable commands Winston has learned. All except the ‘down’ command, which he hadn’t seemed to grasp.  Every day we wander on a small field close to Winston’s house, and halfway round we have a short five minute training session.

Teaching dogs the ‘down’ command previously, has been fairly straightforward. Although, Winston and I had a couple of unsuccessful attempts as I tried to lure him into position. He either just followed the food lure with his eyes, walked forward or pawed at my hand. But we eventually found success, and here’s how:

1. Whilst training I always bear in mind these three factors:

a. Motivation

b. Experience

c. Physical ability

2. We always have our training sessions with me sat on the ground, as it is much easier to train a small dog when you’re at their level. Remember you’re pretty huge to a little pup/small dog so it’s much more comfortable for them. Plus, you don’t break your own back either!

3. I held the treat right in front of his nose, and then moved my hand to the ground really quickly, with a ton of enthusiasm (I had previously lured him slowly). This made Winston really excited and move into a ‘play bow’. Slowly, but surely his bum lowered onto the ground too. He was in the ‘down’ position! Reward! I do hope nobody saw me as my reaction was ‘YES! You’ve got it!’ I was too excited! 

4. I also found that Winston best performed his ‘down’ from the sitting position, rather than standing up. Although we will move onto a ‘down’ from standing as time goes on :)

5. Winston hasn’t completely ‘learned’ this behaviour yet. Although he has acquired new knowledge, and his fluency in performing the behaviour has improved already, he still needs to learn to perform the behaviour in a range of situations and when asked by different people. This is known as ‘generalisation’.

pug down

Holding his ‘down’!

The ‘down’ command may not be the most adventurous of behaviours, or the most complex, but it is important nonetheless. It just goes to show that although the principles of learning are the same for each dog, they all learn at their own rate, in their own way.  It was most definitely a eureka moment for little Winston and I!


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