How to Train a German Shepherd to Lie Down

Updated on May 2, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

"Lie Down" Is an Important Skill for Your Dog to Know

“Lie down” will likely be one of the first tricks that you want to teach to your German Shepherd puppy. This breed learns quickly, so they should be able to learn “lie down” relatively fast with the proper training.

Once your dog has mastered this basic trick, you can also teach them to stay lying down until released, which is a very useful skill. If you follow the steps below, you should be able to train your German Shepherd to lie down with minimal stress.

When to Start?

Many people put off training a German Shepherd puppy until the dog is an adolescent, believing the puppy to be young to train. The truth is, however, that many shepherd puppies can start learning commands as young as three or four months. While many people will hold off on training until they are nine or ten months old, and spend the early months building a bond, training can help to build that bond.

For most German Shepherd owners, “lie down” is the second trick you’ll want to teach, right after “sit.” Rather than trying to teach both tricks at the same time, which can be confusing, wait until your dog has totally mastered “sit” before you start teaching “lie down.” Ideally, your puppy should be used to sitting on command without treats before working on lying down.

Choose Your Voice Command and Reward

The reward and voice command will be the two key starting points for motivating your dog. For most owners, small treats work perfectly for training, but some dogs may prefer a toy or simple praise.

You’ll also need to choose a voice command that you can keep consistent. “Down” or “lie down” are the most common options, but you may also choose a word in another language to help your dog differentiate commands from everyday speech. The German command for “down” is “platz.”

Two Options for the “Down” Motion

The hardest part of teaching your German Shepherd to lie down is to show him the right movement. There are two approaches that different dogs might find easier or harder.

If you’d like to start with your dog in a standing position:

  1. Hold a treat in a cupped hand in front of his nose.
  2. Slowly lower your hand to the ground as you speak your verbal command.
  3. If you lower your hand too quickly, your dog will be more likely to only lower his head.
  4. Once he’s lying down, give him the treat and praise.

If your German Shepherd is having trouble lying down, you can try starting from a sit:

  1. First, ask your dog to sit.
  2. Move a treat down towards the ground slightly in front of him.
  3. If he will not follow the treat, you can gently pull his front legs forward.
  4. Make sure that you never push or hold your dog down. This can be stressful for your dog and may weaken your bond of trust.

Adding a Cue to Your Training

Continue repeating this training in short sessions (only 5-10 minutes at a time) until your dog can reliably respond to your command with the right lying down motion. Then, you may want to add a visual cue to go alongside your verbal command. For example, you may want to use a hand gesture such as pushing your hand downwards with an open palm. Use this cue alongside your verbal command for a few days, and then you should be able to use them interchangeably.

After your German Shepherd has learned the commands, make sure you keep practicing in different environments; soon, you’ll have a lying down master.

Did You Teach Your German Shepherd to Lie Down?

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Step-by-Step Guide to the "Lie Down" Command From Sitting Position

Pick a Command

Pick the command you want to use. “Lie down,” “down,” and “lay down,” are all good, though some owners prefer to pick a word in another language that they can easily remember. The dog will only hear the word in conjunction with your desire for him to lie down, so he is unlikely to get confused about when you are speaking to him and when you are speaking to someone else.

Let Him Sit

Ask him to sit, but do not give him a treat. He should already be weaned off of treats for sitting. Kneel in front of him and use your hands to gently grip his front legs above his elbows. Lift them up and carefully pull them towards you. As you say your command word, lower his legs to the ground so that he is in a lying down position.

Verbal Praise and Treat

Give him verbal praise and a treat, petting him when he is lying down so he knows that is exactly what you want him to do. Do not use force to hold him down—this will frighten him and confuse the training process.

Repeat Training

Repeat this process a few times until he starts to understand what you expect from him when you say your command.

Gently Pulling a Leash Down

Once he seems to have a good idea of what you want, put your leash under your foot and say the command, pulling gently on the leash so it pulls him down—again, very gently. Repeat this process until he no longer needs the physical impetus to lay down.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

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      • clare yetter profile image

        clare yetter 

        6 months ago

        So cute

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 

        6 months ago from Central Florida

        Yes we have a very hard time keeping him supplied with frisbees.

        Friends and family will bring him frisbees that last about 5 minutes tops! We tell them not to take offense. :)

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        6 months ago from Europe

        Thank you for your story. Obsession in German Shepherds. We had one in the past that would go nearly beserk for tennis balls. He would also destroy them in about 60 seconds. :)

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 

        6 months ago from Central Florida

        *Shepherd

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 

        6 months ago from Central Florida

        Hi Sam, good job, very informative.

        We have a 6 year old German Shepard, his name is Gunner.

        Between the both of us, my husband and I have had many dogs over the years, but Gunner is the smartest and the most loyal. The best dog!

        He learned many tricks at an early age. He'll even obey the command to go to the top of the stairs, he'll wait 2 minutes, 10 minutes...until he hears the command to come back down.

        He will sit statuesque, with his favorite treat right in front of his nose until he hears the command, Okay.

        He is obsessed with his Frisbee, but we are very intentional in keeping our throws close to the ground, because otherwise he will go for it, no matter how high and we are always aware of this breed's hip issues.

        He pouts every single time we leave him, he wants constant companionship.

        I could go on and on talking about our 'hariest kid'.

        Thanks for giving me this opportunity.

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        6 months ago from Europe

        Hi Eric,

        Thank you for your nice comments. Nice to see you enjoyed it. Patience is key for the trainer.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Really cool concentration and obedience training for the trainer ;-)

        I like the part about both hand and verbal commands.

        Thank you

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