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This image shows a young mixed-breed dog. The ...

This image shows a young mixed-breed dog. The parents are a white shepherd dog and an alsatian dog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congratulations!  If you’ve been adding a second a day to your dog’s down stay you have a dog who can stay in the down position for seven seconds between treats.  Good job!  One of the most important things you will learn with the down stay is patience.

If they mess up, remember, don’t scold them.  Ignore them for thirty seconds or so then go back to training.  Since your puppy isn’t completely sure what you are asking of him, it does no good to scold him and can be damaging to your relationship.

So, back to work.  This time, I want you to put your dog into a down stay.  Keep him there for seven seconds and give him a treat.  Then count three seconds and give him another treat.  The next time go for ten seconds before offering the treat.  By doing this, you are not allowing your dog to anticipate when the next treat will be coming.  It is called variable reinforcement.

Your dog will fail at this stage.  Do Not Scold Him!

Practice this twenty times a day, slowly increasing the time by one or two seconds a day.  Vary the reinforcement (treats) that you give our dog by making one treat come directly after another and then waiting a few extra seconds the next time around.

Go slowly at this stage.  If your dog fails three times in a row, you are moving too quickly and you need to start back at step one.  You can progress through step one more quickly, but move at a pace that will give your dog confidence from his successes.

After a while, when you ask your dog to down stay, he or she should be able to hold it for significant lengths of time.  The easiest way to practice when you get to this point is by turning on the tv or reading a book and setting a timer when it is time to release your dog from the down stay position.

Remember that when you release him, use the word OK and pet him or get him excited telling him what a good dog he is.  Don’t allow him to just lay there for however long waiting for a treat that won’t come.  Later, you can wean your dog off treats and just say something like “good” or give him a pat on the head.  We will cover weaning off treats at a later date.  We’re not ready for it quite yet.

Be patient with your dog.  Remember, he wants to please you but you are teaching him a new language.  It’s like playing charades.  He has to keep guessing what the answer is until he gets it right and then he has to get it right often enough that he really knows what you are asking for.

Good luck with training and message if you run into trouble.