Teaching a puppy to lie down can be tricky, but you’ve come to the right place to learn how to teach it well.  We’ve broken everything down into small steps so by the time you finish reading this, your puppy will be ready to lie in front of the telly with you.

Why is it important to teach your puppy to lie down?

Lying down is a great tool to help puppies learn how to be calm. The world is hectic as it is already; you and your puppy will equally benefit from the peace of mastering such an essential life skill – trust us. It will probably be used every day too.

In general, knowing how to teach your puppy to lie down can be quite useful for you. You’ll get more of a warning that they’re going to move, and it makes jumping up a lot harder – your trousers will stay nice and clean for longer. 

Teaching your puppy to lie down will also come in handy when:

  • Practicing handling and grooming exercises such as nail trims.
  • Teaching your puppy the difference between Sit and Stand positions.
  • Teaching follow-on tricks such as crawl or roll over.
  • They wait while you’re doing other things such as getting a towel to wipe those grubby paws after a walk. 
grayhound puppy looking at camera
Photo by Chris Arthur-Collins on Unsplash

How to teach your puppy to lie down in 7 easy steps

There are a few different ways to teach a puppy to lie down, but we’ll tell you about the most  common one below – it can be used for most puppies. We go into more detail in our Zigzag puppy training app…there’s probably a few more tips you’ll find useful.

  1. Start this exercise from a Sit – it will be easier for your puppy.
  2. Hold the treat in your hand with your palm facing up, as if you are throwing a ball underarm.
  3. Pop the treat on your puppy’s nose and take it under their chin towards their chest – almost arching in as you go.
  4. Slowly take your hand down to the floor. You should end up with the treat between your puppy’s paws.
  5. Your puppy will follow your hand to the floor with their nose, and their front legs will fold.
  6. Once you see your puppy’s elbows down on the floor and they are lying down, you can give your marker word ‘good’ and give them the treat.
  7. Repeat this 5 times, and then take a break.

Come back later in the day for another set of 5 to make sure it sticks. After a good night’s sleep, let’s try it again when training on the next day. Let’s move on to a hand signal this time.

  1. Repeat the steps above, only doing two rounds. 
  2. Now, time for a trick. Pretend to put the treat in your hand as you did before, but don’t actually keep it there. 
  3. Take your hand to the floor exactly as you did before. Did your puppy follow it and lie down as they did before? Hurray! Say ‘good’ , and then give them a well-deserved treat. 
  4. Go through it 5 times, then take a break, and come back to it later in the day.
  5. When you come back later, see if your puppy can manage to do this only on a hand signal.
puppy lying on the beach with a ball
Photo by Andrew Pons on Unsplash

Extra tips for how to teach your puppy to lie down 

  • Take care of your hand position! Make sure it’s palm up with the treat under your fingers so your puppy’s nose goes over the top of your hand rather than trying to sniff underneath it and getting into weird contorted positions!
  • If your puppy’s body starts looking a bit ‘frog-like’ (where their paws end up between their back legs) start with your puppy being in a stand position instead. We’re basically going for the sphinx look.
  • Down isn’t the easiest for many puppies, so being patient will be a great idea for both of you. If it’s not working out, there’s no trouble in taking a break and coming back to it later. 
  • Do your treats not do the trick? Something different could work. Our article on healthy treats can give you fresh ideas.
  • Puppy doesn’t sit? We have an app for that! And an article on how to teach your puppy to sit. The Zigzag puppy training app also takes you through it step-by-step which you can download here. Gosh, we do have it all. 
  • Remember the three Ps:

Practice: Short and often training sessions work best for puppies. Long training sessions are just tiring and boring, let’s just tell it how it is.

Patience: It’s a new task in a weird language with new people! Your puppy might not get it straight away – understandable. If they’re struggling, take a break!

Persistence:…is key. Your puppy will get there – especially if you keep the other two Ps in mind.

What to do when your puppy can’t lie down

In my many years of working with dogs, I’ve met very few dogs who cannot lie down. They have to eventually…otherwise how would they sleep? Even so, each puppy is different, and there may some challenges that can be in the way:

Here are some examples I’ve come across: 

  • Sighthounds and puppies with long legs and deep chested breeds can find sitting uncomfortable, so teaching the down exercise from a stand may be better.
  • Cold, hard, slippery floors – nope. Use something soft and non-slip for them to practice on until they get the hang of the exercise.
  • Puppies with short legs or toy breeds can get their head on the floor without lying down – but don’t let them get away with not lying down! Practice from a stand and look for that sphinx-like fold. A pro-tip for reluctant small dogs is to practice on a sofa. Take the treat down over the edge so they have to lie down to reach the treat!
  • Keep your eyes open! If you see your puppy lie down voluntarily use your marker word ‘good’ and then grab them a treat. Keeping treats in your pocket might be handy for this one – once your puppy associate’s lying down with being rewarded they will start offering it to you more. 
  • If your puppy is really struggling to lie down, it’s always a good idea to have them checked over by a vet to rule out any joint or health problems.
boxer puppy lying on the grass
Photo by Amber Turner on Unsplash

In summary

Well, there you have it. Now you know how to teach your puppy to lie down, and we wish you the best of luck. Our Zigzag puppy training app might be an excellent companion for you; with customised lessons set out week by week to support you in raising a clever and well-adjusted puppy. We also have a fabulous team of Zigzag puppy training experts and behaviourists who will be glad to personally help you through any struggles you have with your puppy.

You’ll love it. Just saying. 

Looking for more puppy advice and training tips? Read our guide on clicker training for puppies, next.