The Importance of the Down/Stay Exercise
For some dogs, especially puppies or dogs that are anxious or aggressive, down stay is a difficult exercise and I often find dogs owners work on it the least. Whether you are at dinner, a soccer game or on vacation, a strong down-stay affords you the opportunity to manage your dog without the need for tethering, crating or leaving it at home alone. When taught and proofed properly amidst strong distractions, this command affords you the opportunity to have your dog with you but he is not underfoot, in harm’s way or in trouble.
A Calming Position. A long – duration down stay is the best relaxation protocol you can do with your dog. Dogs will not lay down on their own if they dog not feel relaxed. If you teach your dog a long down stay it can actually relax your dog and make him less prone to anxiousness. Additionally, dogs that are overly energetic, can benefit from this because they energy is focused on completing the job of down/stay.
Cats, children, visitors, other dogs at the Veterinarian’s office….Down/stay is a great impulse control exercise. You can use this exercise if you are introducing your dog to a fearful dog, a cat or a child. Large dogs are less intimidating when laying down. This affords you the opportunity to desensitize your dog to distractions and put the public at ease that your dog is under your control.
Undesirable behavior. The down/stay is a great alternative to undesireable behaviors such as begging during meals, being underfoot while cooking or jumping on guests.
Establishing your Alpha Position. Just as a Dam (dog’s mom) will correct and keep her puppy in a down/stay for misbehavior; you too can do it to establish your Alpha position. Any dog that challenges his owner, jumping, mouthing, barking, and more obvious, growling and aggression; must practice this down/stay for long and multiple periods during the day. In dog language, they understand when placed in a down/stay that they must be subordinate; they learn this from each other. If you are using the Down to teach your dog to be subordinate you cannot allow sniffing, rolling or doing anything other than a quiet and still down/stay.
Conclusion. The down/stay is a great tool and teaching it can be easy. Make sure you teach it in a sterile environment and then slowly add duration first and then distance. Getting your dog to do it for lengthy durations in distracting environments is where it gets tricky and where you will need to work hard. If your dog is handler aggressive, seek professional help before doing this exercise.