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Training the Down Command to a Dominant Dog

Dogs seldom develop a dominant personality overnight. There are generally signs that lead up to it. These sign include being stubborn and headstrong, being pushy, growling, whining at humans, heel nipping, standing proud on their human’s lap and carrying themselves with a proud gate. Do not confuse a dominant dog with an aggressive dog. They are not the same thing, although an aggressive dog can have a dominant personality.

Dominant dog with girl

Teaching your dog the down command gives you a solid foundation for many of the more advanced commands you will teach your dog. That’s because lying down is submissive and puts your dog in a bit of a vulnerable position. For a dominant dog, this is especially a trying command and she isn’t likely to give it up easily.

When your dog is made to change her mood and she becomes unsure, she can become dominant and respond with resistance by asserting herself. She will push back and likely growl if she feels your hand on her shoulder blade. At this point, don’t bother trying food because she’s already stressed, so there won’t be any interest in a treat, even when it’s her favorite.

The dominant dog is misunderstood. That’s because by nature she is active and direct and so when she is dealing with people she tends to run into emotional dead ends. As a result, your dog will interpret any change that is related to you or other humans as bad.

To train your dominant dog the down command, start by making sure your dog is really hungry. That’s because when she is hungry transitioning your dog to a down position will occur quite smoothly with the incentive of food. It is important that you continue to improve on the contact training between you and your dog, as this is the biggest hurdle you will face with a dominant dog. When you continuously work with your dog, she will begin to relax and she will learn that change is good. As a result, she will become more flexible and less fearful.

Eventually you will have to address your dominant dog without the use of food, so the earlier you begin to work with her using food, the easier this next step will be. When it’s time to train without the use of food, simply hold the lead with your right hand while putting your left foot on the lead. Now you need to patiently wait and slowly increase the pressure downward on her neck, unless she begins to panic or overload. Then you need to wait, let her relax, and try again.

You should not place your head near a dominant dog as this will intensify the problem and it will force her to resist even harder. As she becomes less resistant, you can see her starting to think about giving in and lying down, you need to talk very soft and comforting to her, to help to weaken her resistance. You can amplify the relaxation by scratching her ribs.

You want your dog to feel that by lying down she becomes the focus. She needs to feel like you aren’t trying to be dominant over her, as this would really add to her being unsure and it would also confirm her initial negative assessment to people that make her change her mood. Rather what you want is for her to learn that when she becomes a subordinate it will lead to a very positive experience.

When your dog lies down, make sure you rub her belly. It’s okay if she rolls over, because energizing her at that moment will be seen positively by her. She will quickly learn that the down command is not to be feared and the down command will come easily.

This same method applies to all commands or tricks you are teaching a dominant dog. Don’t push her too hard or too fast, and you will be rewarded with successful training.


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