Dog Training: The Importance of a Solid Down-Stay
The down-stay is a key tool in the FetchMasters dog training arsenal. We train it as a time-centric command, not as a distance-centric command (like a sit-stay).
At some point in a dog’s training, we want it to see the “down” position as an eternal situation (allegorically speaking). In this picture, Daisy has bought into the notion (if dogs can buy into notions) that this position is more or less a permanent arrangement. Of course, we don’t try to make dogs fall asleep while performing this command (very uncommon), but we found the picture humorous, and it kind of makes our point. Hopefully it gives you a little smile too.
NOTICE ALSO that we do not train this command as a visually uber-precise competition obedience style command. We expect dogs to get comfortable, relax and stay that way. So visually it is more akin to a “settle” position.
We think down-stay provides a critical management tool, as well as a useful addition to many behavior modification strategies. Here are a few reasons why:
Down-Stay is a Long-Duration Management Tool
Whether during dinner, a soccer game, in a duck blind, in the car or at the campsite, a well-developed down-stay affords the owner a way to manage his dog without the need for tethering it or putting it in a kennel — or leaving it at home. When developed properly amidst strong distractions, this command keeps dogs from being underfoot, in harms way or in trouble.
Down-Stay is a Calming Position
In the dog training world, there is a version of training a long-duration down-stay known as the “relaxation protocol.” While the relaxation protocol includes far less proofing (and thus far less high-distraction utility) than a FetchMasters down-stay, the relaxation element of the training is roughly the same.
Dogs typically will not lay down of their own accord if they do not feel relaxed. Conversely, teaching a dog a long down-stay will actually help it relax. This makes down-stay an excellent skill for dogs prone to anxiousness.
Additonally, when dogs are overly energetic indoors, a well-developed down-stay gives the owner a way to stop the dog’s activity and calm it down without kenneling it or leaving it outside. This also allows the owner to relax rather than having to constantly react to the dog’s movement and energy level.
Other Creative Uses for Down-Stay
We often use down-stay as part of our approach to introduce dogs to cats in the home. Dogs like to run towards cats, and then cats run away from dogs, and then dogs pursue even harder. Cats do not warm up well to dogs when they always are on the defensive.
However, a dog with a properly developed down-stay can lay still while the cat moves about the room. This allows the dog opportunity to become somewhat desensitized to the cat, and vice versa. Granted, this is not a complete dog-cat introduction procedure, but it definitely provides a useful tool and aids the process.
Teaching a dog to lay down is easy. Teaching it to stay laying down in a distracting environment is harder. Getting it to do so for lengthy durations in distracting environments is where it gets tricky. Training a good down-stay requires an incremental approach and well developed training scenarios.
But once developed, possibly no obedience command is more useful — other than maybe heeling. For more info on building a strong obedience-based management system for your dog, including an impeccable (and actually useful) down-stay without the use of harsh tactics or equipment, contact us! We’d love to help.