Lake House Series Video 6: Lying Down on Command in Emergency Settings

Hi! One thing I really want with my dogs is an Emergency Down. That is when my dog drops into a down no matter where they are or how fast they’re running if I command them to do so or if I ask them to do so. I also want to be able to do it with a hand signal, so I want to be able to raise my hand, lower it, and as long as they’re looking at me, they should go into a down. I call it an emergency down because that’s when you usually would need to use it. So, if I’m out at the lake house and somebody’s coming to say hello to me when I’m not expecting them and my dog’s outside, she starts barking and running towards me or towards the person. In this case, I can ask her to lie down. Same thing if she’s chasing something. She sees a goose or a coyote or something like that, I can ask her to lie down and she should lie down right there. I want to show you today how to teach your dog that behavior.

I’m Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play To Behave, and you can find out more about me at playtobehave.com. Now, I’ve taught this skill to Rae before so she does know it. Hopefully she will be a good demo dog today on camera because it’s been a while. But also, I need to do this regularly so that it becomes an automatic behavior for her. It sort of was before, but I didn’t push it that hard.

So, to get your dog to have an automatic behavior … What I mean by that is that you want to do it so many times that your dog no longer thinks, they just do it. It gets taken over from the thinking part of the brain, or the frontal lobe of the brain, into the more primitive part of your brain where you do things automatically. So, you know how you can drive to the store and sing at the same time? That’s because you’ve done it so many times that it’s become automatic behavior, and your brain is able to do more than one thing at a time. So, I want them to do the behavior first and ask questions later. Does that make sense? Anyways, you just do it enough times, repeat, repeat, repeat, then you will get the behavior to be reliable.

Okay, the first thing I need to do with her is to show her that being away from me is going to be valuable. So, that’s all I’ll show you today. I’m just gonna be throwing treats at a distance, and after a while she should figure out, well, there’s no point in coming back to her because all the treats are always out here. Even if I come back to her, I have to go back out there to get the treats. And I’m just throwing them. I’m not asking for any special behavior at all. I just want her to be away from me. And that’s the first thing. As I’m throwing it, I’m gonna be using my hand with a signal to say, “Out,” which means I want you to go away from me. Now, I will use that in agility. You don’t necessarily need that, but it’ll help you when you wanna practice and teach them the emergency down. So, as I throw the treat, I’m pushing my hand out and saying, “Out.” All she’s learning is to go away from me. Later, I’m gonna teach her while you’re out there, I need you to sit and lie down.

Now this assumes that your dog already knows how to sit and how to lie down, and if they know those, they’re gonna be more than happy to do it far away from you if they’re already getting treats far away from you. We’ll see how she does. I’m gonna turn the camera on her. As I said, it’s been a while since we’ve done this, but I think she will remember it.

“Rae, out. Out. Out. Out.” Do you see? I’m just keeping her out there away from me and using the word “Out.” Out. “Good girl.” And this is what the finished behavior will look like as I can usually tell her to sit down. “Come. Good girl.” So you can work on your recall as well. “Rae, out. Good girl. There you go. Sit. Yes. Down. Yes. Good girl.” And I can just toss the treat out there. I didn’t ask her to stay, so that’s okay, she got up. “Out. Good girl.” See why you need to use a light colored treat on the dark floor? “Good girl. Rae, sit. Yes. Good girl. Catch.”

Okay, so all you’re gonna do is start using small treats and … “Rae, come. Good girl. Here.” And you’re going to ask them to go out and put your hand out. “Out.” And just keep throwing the treats to keep the out there, and pretty soon they’ll learn that they should stay away. Now this is in a controlled area in a small house, area in my house. It’s different than doing it outside. So once I know I have this really good inside, and you can see that I do have it pretty good, we’ll be taking it outside here at the house where she’s more familiar, and then we’ll take it to the other house inside, and then we’ll take it outside there. So that’s the plan. “Good girl. Very, very good girl. Sit. Yes. Good job.”

Just to summarize that one more time, when you want to get started with your dog this way, you want to get a bunch of little treats. Just have them handy. You might only do 10 or 20. And once or twice a day, or at least three times a week, let’s say, you’re going to throw that treat and at the same time push your hand out, say the word “Out” so that your dog learns, “I’m gonna go away from you.” And you’ll find that your dog will figure this out and they won’t come back to you. Now, make it easy on them. Don’t throw it too far. Use a treat that’s easy to see on whatever flooring you have. So if you have a dark floor, use a light treat, if you have a light floor, use a dark treat. Okay? Have fun with it! If you have any questions or comments, go ahead and email me. And again, this is Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play To Behave, and you can find out more about me at playtobehave.com. Happy training.