In stock, a good down is a must, and will really help your success in trailing on stock. There are many ways to train the down, but this works well for me.
- A 6 foot leash
- Long Line
- Buckle collar
- Really good treats
- A dog!
The dog should be at least 10 months. No previous training is needed, though knowledge of a down and clicker training really helps.
How Long Does It Take to Teach A Down?
If done right, you can teach the basics in 4-5 days and then skip a day if you want. The finished product, a down on stock, takes at least a month. I train this separately from any other training and do this on days when I do not work the dog on anything else.
I keep my sessions short, not much more than 5-7 minutes. Usually the dog realizes what it needs to do to get the treat pretty quickly. When they link the down with the voice command, I lengthen my sessions to about 10 minutes and move from a 6 foot leash to a long line and repeat.
4 Simple Steps To Teaching the Down
- I start out with the dog on a loose leash and ask for a down, then gently place the dog in a down and hold him there a few seconds. Say yes, and treat. I then let the dog up, walk a bit and repeat.
- Timing is really important. You want to link the desired behavior (the down) with the treat. The dog will be confused at first, just be gentle and bright with your voice and be consistent. You want the dog to know this is not punishment, it is a game. Treat immediately after they are in the down.
- I also toss the dog the treat after he downs. It does not matter if the dog breaks the down to get the food and usually I toss the treat either directly to the dog or behind the dog. At this point you will be asking the dog to down further and further from you, and since to the dog this is a new exercise (distance added) you may have to say the command and walk out to the dog and place the dog in a down, but gradually the dog will understand he has to down when you ask at distance.
- I will start taking the dog into the stock arena and repeat this but do not work the dog on stock, then I do the same without the leash and ask for a down. By now the dog knows food is coming and will usually down pretty easily. If not go back to the step before this and repeat.
Before I try this on stock, the dog should be able to down off leash at a short distance (6-12’) anywhere. Then I transfer the down while we are working.
In the meantime I have taught the dog his directions and he is working the stock smoothly and should know how to hold the stock in a corner.
Working Stock and Reinforcing the Down
I have the dog back on the long line and work the stock into a corner, so the stock and dog are naturally at the balance point. I have the dog back on a long line and ask for the down. Since the dog is not as worried about losing his stock, he is more likely to down. If not, I gently place the dog in a down and treat. You may lose the stock when doing this, but use the dog on a line to move the stock into a corner again and repeat.
Try to keep things calm and not frantic. If it gets frantic, the dog is not thinking he is reacting so you may need to repeat earlier steps. As the dog starts to get it, I ask for a down when the dog is pushing the stock too much on a parallel drive.
After they get the basics of downing on stock, I use the food less and less and gradually stop using it altogether.
Good luck and happy herding.