The “Down” command is so important that there is no room for any error. There are three types of dogs that will overreact to down training and will have to be handled carefully:
1) Dogs that are over-submissive
2) The nervous dogs
3) Dogs that are dominant and aggressive.
In this article, we will discuss about the over-submissive type and the proper way to teach him the “Down” exercise.
The Over-submissive Dog
This dog will be overly stimulated by his owner’s presence and his touch will raise nervousness. As the owner tries to influence him, the dog will prostrate himself, perhaps on his back, and he will totally misinterpret the objective. Rather than doing a simple down with a focus on the food, the dog will keep his focus on the owner. In other words, the dog is defensive rather than clear in his drive; he is driven by nervousness to show submission to his owner.
Making this dog hungry is effective, not to reduce fear but to increase his focus and stamina when he’s in drive. This dog is very easy to inhibit, so his owner felt that his dog’s subdued behaviors were an appropriate response to his confrontational approach to dog training. However, the dog really only learned to give up his drive and become submissively nervous, rather than learn what to do with his drive. Therefore, when the dog rolls on his back, the owner should neutralize this reflex by running away and commanding the dog to jump up and make contact.
The running will relax his nerve; as he gets the urge to roll over, the owner, the object of the dog’s maneuvering, is long gone. What you are doing here is converting his nervous drive into clear or calm drive. If the dog wants to focus on you, he will only get to do it by being pure in his drive activity, running after and plugging into you. Immediately after making contact, the dog is rewarded with food.
When the dog can stay focused on the food and remain resilient to a shock, he can be shocked for this nervous display of submission, and the shock will actually convert the nervousness into being poised for a drive behavior. After the dog becomes calm about staying, be sure that the shock is then followed by the pure drive activity of chasing you.
In this way, the dog can start to choose drive over nervousness. He will work to avoid the shock by self-inhibiting his nervousness. Then he will learn that the calm position of lying down in a focused manner on his owner and the food ends up causing the fun and pure drive activity of chasing you. Also, you are disassociating yourself from the nervousness, which you probably helped to create in the first place, and that will make life calmer for your dog.