Start by sitting on the ground with your dog facing you in the sit position. Have a bag of treats ready, but only have one treat out at a time. Put the treat baggie in your pocket some it does not create a distraction. You should be in a quiet room with no interruptions. Hold the treat directly in front of your dogs nose, with a
tiny bit of the treat sticking out so s/he can nibble on it. The treat should be held between your thumb and forefinger. While holding the treat directly in front of their nose, very slowly move it down (imagine how you'd look down without moving your body, chin touching chest) between their paws, and at that time s/he should have their head lowered almost all the way to their paws. When their head reaches this level, you may place a hand lightly on the shoulder blades, pressing lightly, and say "down", while letting the treat almost touch the floor. Make sure she is still "right on" the treat (actively trying to eat it, with her mouth near or touching your fingers), and begin to slide the treat slowly outwards from between her paws while applying a bit of pressure to their shoulders if they are not fully laying down. If she is not successful, try again from the sit position, but do not get frustrated. If she completes it successfully, say "Good girl DOWN" in a pleasant voice. Keep practicing, and she will get it.
This is perhaps the most important command you can teach your dog. When successfully employed, your dog should leave whatever they are doing, regardless of how interesting it may be, and return to you. This can save many a dogs' life, but sadly, most owners do not teach their dog this command.
For this exercise, you will need two people, treats, and a twenty foot training lead. Go to an open area such as a field, with the leash attached, and have your dog sit facing you. Hold the leash, and have your partner call the dog, making it exciting. Once the dog reaches your partner, have them place your dog in the sit position and reward with a treat and lots of praise. Call your dog back to you, give the sit command, and again, reward with a treat and praise. Continue this exercise for about a half-hour to an hour. Move it to your backyard, offleash, and continue the routine. This should be practiced as often as possible. I recommend a month-long regimen, practicing at least twice weekly, and then letting your dog offleash where permitted, given your dog has mastered the technique.
For the next post, I'll be showcasing some DIY doggie treats, and after that, we'll cover heeling.