Laura’s husband Mike gives Trista a treat while in her (already perfect) default down.
There is no skill a dog can have that offers more inclusion into human activities and lifestyle than a solid down-stay. My own dog Trista goes everywhere with me, precisely because she is a pleasure to be with and around: She lies quietly beside me, bothers no one by soliciting attention or making noise, tolerates the unexpected with grace, and seems happy just to be included. And our relationship is deepened because we can share so much together.
Start with you seated and your dog on leash and in control position if she is apt to jump up on you. Fiddle with some treats in your hand, but otherwise ignore her, studiously avoiding giving eye contact or attention, perhaps watching TV or carrying on a conversation with someone. Should your pooch go into a down (which often happens at about the time she is giving up), immediately mark the behavior with a “yes!” and give her a treat, continuing to reward at intervals. If she stands up, mark with an “uh uh!” and abruptly the treats stop flowing. At some point, say “OK” and stand up, allowing your dog to rise. Repeat a few times, making note of whether your dog begins to lie down sooner.
With frequent practice, the down will become a default behavior that is perfect for a canine café companion! The beauty of the default down is that your dog is taking responsibility for her own behavior rather than relying on you to monitor and instruct her politeness. This is a very effective way to build a strong down-stay.
A note: If your dog is having difficulty and getting frustrated, use the sit as an intermediate step. When this is solid, start reinforcing for the down instead.
Laura Garber, CPDT-KA
Behavior Manager, Pennsylvania SPCA
Laura believes strongly in strengthening the bond between human and companion animal. For this reason, she regards training as an exercise in building relationship rather than obedience. Such an approach promises greater understanding and symbiosis within our family packs.