Sitting on the Dog

Courtesy of Margot Woods, Applewoods Dog Training, Laurel, MD

There is a major difference in the down stay and the long down.  The down stay can only be taught AFTER the dog has learned to down on command.  Teaching a dog to down on a voice command can take up to three weeks of working three sessions per day, every day.

The long down, on the other hand, can be taught in a couple of sessions. It has a totally different focus. It cannot be called a long down unless it is at least 30 minutes in duration. The dog has on a collar that it cannot back out of. A 6′ leather or nylon leash is attached to the collar. The leash is then run, from left to right over the seat of a solid chair that does not have wheels.

The owner then sits on the chair and the leash. The leash is adjusted so that when the dog decides to lie down there will be only slight gentle upward pressure on the collar. At no time does the owner touch, look at, or talk to the dog. The owner must have something else to do during the long down period. Read a book, work on the computer, write complaints, talk to a friend, eat a meal, pay some bills, do some homework. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are doing something. The only time you would acknowledge the dog is to push it away if it tries to climb into your lap or to take whatever physical means necessary to stop the dog from eating the leg of the chair. If you need to do something physical, do NOT look at the dog and the instant you have finished the physical thing, immediately go back to what you were doing.

This is an exercise in leadership and dominance. You are supposed to be the dominant one and the leader. As such, you are the one who decides where the two of you will be and for how long and it is not a voting matter. There are no maximum time lengths for this exercise. However, the minimum time is 30 minutes. The exercise should be practiced twice per day, every day if possible. You know you have done enough formal practice when you look down and see the dog lying quietly by your side and the collar and leash are still hanging on a hook in the closet.

After the first couple of days, this is a very calming and soothing exercise for both parties. During the first couple of days a really determined dog will go through the most amazing series of behaviors. Not only that, they will repeat the series in the same sequence over and over. When none of the behaviors win them the leadership post, they will literally throw themselves down, give a very loud “humph” and refuse to look at you , the owner. After this period has passed, it is all smooth sailing and happy tail wags.

Again, the long down has nothing in common with a down stay other than the physical position of the dog. You cannot leave a dog that is doing a long down because you are a major part of the picture. You do leave a dog that is doing a down stay.

I have one addition to this wonderful exercise. Instead of sitting on the leash, adjust the length and then place your foot on it for extra strength.

Courtesy of Margot Woods, Applewoods Dog Training, Laurel, MD