The method used to clicker train your dog to lay down on command is nearly the same as the non-clicker method. The main differences are: 1) you’ll use the clicker to mark the moment your dog is in the proper position, and 2) the verbal cue will be added after he understands the behavior.
To begin, have your dog sit but don’t click him for it. If you do, he’ll look for the treat and not realize you want him to do more for the reward.
Lure your dog into position and click
Hold a treat near your dog’s nose. When he focuses on it, lower the treat straight to the ground and then out toward you. The idea is to trace an L-shape. The instant your dog’s chest and belly touch the ground, click and treat. Repeat the process several times, luring your dog down to the ground and clicking when he’s in the proper position. You may need to reposition the treat either forward or back to persuade your dog into place.
Repeat without the lure
After a few repetitions get your dog to lay down without holding a treat to lure him. Instead, use your hand as if you were holding the treat and trace the same L-shape. Click and treat when your dog’s all the way down.
Add the verbal cue
Once your dog can repeat the behavior five or six times in a row, add the verbal cue “Down”. At first say it just before he gets into position. Then slowly work the cue earlier into the movement until you only click and treat when your dog offers the behavior after the command.
Teaching your dog the down command can be a little more difficult than clicker training him to sit. The following tips should help you deal with potential problems and increase your dog’s reliability in response to the command.
If your dog won’t go all the way down
If your dog only lowers his head part way as he follows the treat, you can use this movement to shape the behavior. First, click and treat whenever he makes a partial movement down. Then only click and treat when he moves a little further down. Build on each movement in the right direction until he offers the complete behavior. Also, see teaching your dog the down command for other ideas on how to lure your dog into the proper position. Just remember to click and treat as soon as he’s in place.
Be specific with your obedience commands
The down command is a specific word for obedience training and is used to get your dog to lay down in a particular position. If you want him to stop jumping, get off the furniture, or just leave you alone, you need to train other commands. Use “Off” to get your dog off the furniture. Train him to target a specific place, like his crate, if you want him to go somewhere else. Telling your dog to “go lay down” in a variety of situations only confuses him and can make his response to the down command less reliable.