What to Do if Your Puppy Won’t Do Down

If your puppy won’t do down when you give them the command, try the following steps:

  • Exercise your puppy before training
  • Stay calm during training
  • Use high-value rewards
  • Make sure you’re training correctly
  • Wait until your puppy lies down naturally
  • Try training on a different surface

Never force your puppy down, as this could upset or injure them. Instead, wait for them to lie down on their own, even if not on command.

If your puppy won’t lay down at all, bring them to the veterinarian to make sure they aren’t in pain or suffering from a medical condition.

In this article, I’ll discuss the steps to get your puppy to lie down on command, even if they’re being stubborn or difficult to train.


Exercise your Puppy before Training

When you train your puppy, you want their energy at a moderate level—not too low and not too high.

An exhausted puppy will likely lie down, but not because of your commands! They’ll be sleeping through training instead.

A hyper puppy will be bouncing around, ready for a walk or a game of fetch. They won’t be able to focus on the task at hand.

It’s important to make sure your puppy gets enough exercise daily and that you’re timing your training sessions correctly. Don’t try to train before a walk, but instead swap the activities so that the walk comes before the training.

Trying to train a hyper puppy will only frustrate you both.


Stay Calm During Training

Your puppy isn’t the only one who needs to be calm during training. It’s even more important that you are calm!

If you go into a training session unable to focus or already frustrated, you’re setting you and your puppy up for failure.

Remember that puppies feed off of our energy. If you’re upset, they can feel that and will respond. If you’re super excited, your puppy will feel excited and ready for fun.

If you’re beginning to get upset, take a time out and stop training for a while. It’s best to keep training sessions short so that you and your puppy don’t become overly frustrated with one another.

Trying to dig in your heels and keep training until your puppy lays down will only make it a bad experience for you both, and probably make your puppy want to listen to you even less!


Use High-Value Rewards

Sometimes a puppy doesn’t follow commands because they don’t care about the reward. It’d be like asking you to go into the office to complete a boring day’s work for free—what would your incentive be to do that?

Most of us are working because we need money or because we get enjoyment out of our work.

Puppies are the same way. If you’re giving them a treat they don’t care about, why should they put in the effort to get that reward?

Find out what motivates your puppy and make that their reward instead. Maybe it’s their favorite treat, a toy, pets, or praise. You can even combine these if you’d like—I typically give my dog a treat and then pet him while I tell him how good he’s done!

Every pup is different, so it may take some trial and error to find what motivates them. Once you have this figured out, they’ll be a lot more likely to listen.


Make Sure You’re Training Correctly

Sometimes, the problem with training isn’t the puppy—it’s the trainer!

Especially if you’ve never trained a dog before, double-check to ensure you’re teaching them right. You should be showing off the reward first, and maybe even letting them have a bit so that they can see how good or tasty it is.

Get your puppy’s attention by holding a treat or toy in front of their face, then bring your hand down to the ground. Your puppy should lie down in an attempt to get the treat from your hand.

Wait a few moments to see if they do so. If they do, say “down” and reward them!

If your puppy hasn’t laid down even after you wait with your hand to the ground, consider using a smellier, tastier treat or follow the more natural method outlined below.


Wait Until Your Puppy Lies Down Naturally

If you can’t get your puppy to lie down, another method is just to wait until they do so naturally. After all, puppies sleep 18-20 hours a day, so before long they’re sure to curl up for a nap.

Try calling your puppy to your side and then waiting until they get bored and lie down beside you. Keep a reward on hand so that you can reward them right away!

Once your puppy lies down, say “down” and give them their reward. Then have them stand back up or call them over to another place, wait until they lie down again, and repeat the process.

If you do this often enough, they will learn what “down” means, and training them to do so on command will be easier.


Try Training on a Different Floor Surface

Some puppies don’t like certain ground surfaces. Maybe you’re training on hard floors and your puppy won’t do down there, or they dislike laying on carpets.

It might be uncomfortable or even painful for them to lie down, especially if it’s a hard surface they’re refusing to lie on.

Try training somewhere else. For instance, if you’re training outdoors on cement, move to the grass instead. If you’re on kitchen tile, move over to a rug.


Don’t Force Your Puppy Down

Never force your puppy down. This could upset or even injure them, and it’s not necessary for training.

If your puppy won’t lay down on command, wait until they lie down naturally and follow the steps in that section to train them.

As a quick overview, they are:

  • Call your puppy to you
  • Wait until they lay down on their own
  • Say “down” and give them a reward!
  • Repeat until your puppy learns the “down” command


Never Punish Your Puppy

I recommend strongly that you never punish your puppy for not listening and that you don’t use harsh training methods such as dominance training. This is because these methods have been disproven and don’t work on dogs of any age!

In reality, your puppy might even learn to fear you or become aggressive due to these training methods. It’s also not fair to your puppy, as they most likely aren’t misbehaving on purpose—they just don’t know how to do “down” yet.

Yelling at or scolding your puppy in particular might encourage their behavior. They may see negative attention as better than no attention and keep misbehaving to get a reaction out of you.

Puppies might even see your yelling to mean you’re having a good time, such as when they bark. They might begin to bark along to join in on the festivities!

Instead of using harsh training methods, go into training with a calm attitude, as I discussed above. Walk away when you or your pup gets frustrated. Be patient with yourself and with them.

Use positive reinforcement to show your puppy what you want and don’t scold them or make a fuss when they don’t lie down.


If Your Puppy Won’t Lie Down at All, See a Veterinarian

If your puppy is overly restless or even refuses to lay down at all, you should set up an appointment with your veterinarian.

Your puppy might be in pain or have a medical condition. If the restlessness is short-lived, it might be due to a stressful environment or too much excitement, such as if there are fireworks going off outside or you have company over.

Look for other symptoms such as limping, grunting or crying out while trying to lie down, or any changes in their usual behavior.

Write these down if you need to or keep them in mind so that you can mention them to your veterinarian. This will help them to make the best diagnosis for your dog.


Writer: Katelynn Sobus

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