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Your dog has learned to sit and lie down on cue, and can even hold the position for 5 seconds with a tempting treat on the ground in front of her.  Good work!  It's now time to progress. 


How about having her remain lying down when the doorbell rings, chill out while you watch a movie, and relax on her special mat when you are visiting others?  This is a big next step and takes time and patience - but both you and your dog will reap the benefits for a long time to come.   A rock solid down-stay teaches your dog to relax in the midst of commotion, and provides a great alternative to other, less desirable, behaviors.  See Problem Behaviors for further details.


The exercises below lay the foundation for your dog to achieve this - namely by adding duration and distraction, important components in  The Training Process.  


Training Tips

  1. Understand how to use a Training Plan  - this will help you progress more effectively through these exercises. 

  2. Choose a special mat that travels well - a simple bathroom rug can do the trick.  The mat should only come out during use, and immediately put away when not in use - in this way, the mat itself becomes the cue.

  3. Proof the behaviors by practicing in different rooms, locations, and with different people.

  4. Skip the click!  Duration exercises are best done without the disruption of a click.  Simply reward down-stays by placing a treat between your dog's two front paws - this encourages her to remain lying down.   

  5. No 'resets' necessary.  If your dog remains in position after the reward, there is no need to get her back up, and ask for a down or a sit again.  The longer she chooses to remain in position the better.  After all, this is the goal! 

  6. Whenever you increase one criteria, relax the other!  For example, do not walk to the door and open it.  First walk to the door, then repeat the exercise with just opening the door.  Then, once learned, walk to and open the door.   

  7. No rush!  These exercises are meant to be done over several sessions - each dog is different and each day is different.  Your dog determines the pace.

  8. End every session on a high note!!

And one more ...

A dog in a 'sphinx' position is much more likely to pop back up.   Therefore, for down-stays try to lure your dog onto one hip at the start of these exercises.   

The Bungee Walk

The goal is to teach your dog to remain lying down, without saying 'stay' or giving any other cue, while you take 5 steps backwards and 5 steps forward.   Cue your dog to lie down then work your way through the following steps - start by facing your dog and remain facing your dog while stepping forward and back again - reward each success.  If she gets up, no big deal, take a breath, and cue her back in position.

1.  Take 1 step back and 1 step forward  - work in sets of five.​

  • If she misses the first three attempts, try again by taking a half step back and forth.

  • If she remains lying down for 3 of the 5 times, repeat the set of five

  • If she remains lying down for 4 or 5 of the 5 reps, go to the next step.​

2.  Take 2 steps back and 2 steps forward - work in sets of five.​

  • If she misses the first three attempts, drop back to prior step.

  • If she remains lying down for 3 of the 5 times, repeat the set of five

  • If she remains lying down for 4 or 5 of the 5 reps, go to the next step.

3.  Continue to do this exercise taking 3, 4 and 5+ steps respectively.

4.  Do the same exercise, but in a Sit.  ​

Double Walk Around

The goal is to be able to walk around your dog, once in each direction, while your dog remains sitting or lying down.  Start in front of your dog and follow the steps below, rewarding each success.  This exercise is considerably more challenging than the bungee walk.

1.  Walk clockwise completely around your dog.

  • Take one step, then two, then three - following a training plan as done in the bungee walk.     

  • At the halfway point, just complete the circle (no need to go step by step).

  • If she remains lying down during the entire circle, for 4 or 5 of the 5 reps, then move to the next step.   

2.  Walk counterclockwise completely around your dog.   

  • Walk counterclockwise in a complete circle - work in sets of five. 

    • If she misses 3 in a row, then simply repeat step #1 - but counterclockwise.

    • If she remains down 3 of the 5 times, repeat this step.

    • If she remains down during the entire circle, for 4 or 5 of the 5 reps, then move to the final step.

3.   Walk clockwise completely around your dog AND then walk counterclockwise completely around your dog. ​

  • If she misses three in a row, practice one circle at a time.

4.  Do the same exercise, but in a Sit.  ​

Be still and know that you are loved

The goal of this exercise is to get your dog comfortable hanging out and NOT engaging.  Just chilling.  The benefits of this exercise are multifold.  It can help put the dog in a more relaxed state prior to any potentially stressful situations, it teaches the dog that she can be near you without engaging, and still be rewarded.  The best part of this exercise is that it is very easy and pays off immediately!

Like all mat exercises, bring out the special mat and be sure to put it away when finished.  Place the mat on the floor next to where you are sitting.  You can preempt the exercise by throwing a few treats on the mat, or cueing her to lie down on it.   Sessions can be as short as 5-10 minutes or as long as everyone remains relaxed.  Remember to keep only a soft focus on her -  as the goal is to ignore each other!    

1.  Once settled, quietly drop medium value treats (do not want her too excited) on the mat every 5-10 seconds for the first minute or so.

2.  Then begin to place treats between her paws only when there are subtle movements towards disengagement and relaxation.  For example, she 

  • looks away​

  • shifts to a more relaxed position

  • places her head down

  • closes her eyes

  • orients her body away from you 

3.  If your dog gets up during this exercise, that is ok, simply cue her back to her mat and resume the exercise.  You may begin these exercise on a loose leash to keep her near - if she does get up. 

4.  Enjoy your movie.

Basset Hound sleeping isolated on white background_edited.jpg

Relaxation Protocols

All of these exercises encourage relaxation among distractions.  There are many other effective relaxation exercises, many of which are informed by Dr. Karen Overalls popular and effective protocols.  I would encourage you to explore the wealth of her research and protocols available on her site - including, of course, her relaxation protocols.

My highly stylized version of her protocol is done by slowly adding duration and distraction to mat training, without following a strict training plan per se, but still being careful to increase difficulty only when the dog is able to remain relaxed at the current step.  You will have an easier time if you master the 'Bungee Walk' and 'Double Walk Around' beforehand.

First, cue your dog to go to her mat and lie down. Then, slowly and incrementally, do the following.  

  1. Count to five aloud

  2. Clap your hands three times

  3. Take 3 steps back and forth, any direction.

  4. Softly knock on a wall

  5. Drop a low value toy near her bed

  6. Count to ten aloud

  7. Do one jumping jack 

  8. Do three jumping jacks

  9. Walk around the room

  10. Move to another room for 5 seconds and come back



  • During the first few sessions, treat each success.  Once your dog learns to remain lying down, treat intermittently, every 2 or 3 successes.

  • Stage real life situations.  For example, walk to your front door and back, have someone ring the doorbell, have someone open and close the door.  Remember to teach one component at a time before combining them - doorbell rings, walk to the door, open and close the door, walk back.

  • Practice in real life.  Place the mat in or near your kitchen, then go about your kitchen tasks and every now and then drop a treat, rewarding relaxation and duration.

  • Remember to practice all these exercises in different locations, people, and situations.  Remember that each day is different.  Keep sessions short, and end the session if you or your dog loses interest, feels stressed or frustrated.   

  • We ALWAYS want to keep this relaxing for all - that's the point!

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