THE COLD TURKEY 30-MINUTE DOWN-STAY

By Janice Frasche'

Would you like to know simple a way of teaching your big dog to accept your dominance? Something you can use to humanely make a strong impression on your dog when he has been naughty? Something you can easily do that will help program your young puppy to look up to you as his leader?

This terrific training and correction technique involves putting your dog or pup (3 months or older) into a 30 minute "down" daily. Yes, DAILY! If you do not have thirty minutes to spend with your dog daily, then you are probably too busy to have a dog. This is sensible preventive maintenance.

To initiate this lesson with your dog, begin with a time when you will be sitting down at the same spot for a half-hour period. Watching TV, reading a book, listening to the radio - you get the idea. (Some people can do it all at the same time.) Your dog must be on the floor next to you, and it is best initially if you are seated low enough to the dog so that you can swing your arms and chest (think CPR) over the dog (you look so ALPHA!) so that you can get him back down into the same place that you put him down in. (In a few days you can recline in that Lazy Boy, sitting on leash, while your dog stays down.)

Put a leash on your dog and give the command "DOOWWNNNN" once. If the dog doesn't do it or hasn't learned the command put him down on his belly; if he rolls on his back that is fine as long as he is down for the duration of this dominance exercise. A pup or untrained dog will get up (repeatedly) pretty quick, but keep putting him down without babbling to him. You can growl "NO!" and the command to him one more time but you should otherwise be silent. Eventually, the dog will settle for at least enough time to set your timer for 30 minutes. Yes, this must be done "Cold Turkey" for thirty minutes!

The first umpteen times that the dog tries to get up and you put him back down, he is learning that you are inflexible and alpha. Do not reset your timer and do not pet, fondle, scratch or tickle the dog while he is doing this exercise. You must maintain your aura of dominance. Eventually, even a young pup will give up asserting his will and just lie there. It is fine if your dog falls asleep. They usually will.

When thirty minutes is up, tell your dog "Okay, Good Dog!" (or something short and similar; do not babble or make it a big deal) that will let him know that you are releasing him from his long down. You may have to wake him up. Never just let him get up when you are doing this exercise, he must know when you have released him.

After several sessions, about a week or so of daily practice, your dog will have a better idea of who is in charge (you are, we hope) and you can add the command "STAY" to the exercise once the dog is down. When your dog is holding the long down pretty well without breaking it, you can start to move around the room and correct him as necessary if he breaks. Eventually, you can apply this exercise on just a weekly basis, or whenever you want the dog out of your hair.

As a correction exercise, when the dog has been bad, bring him to the scene of his crime, doesn't matter how long ago it was, point at the evidence, growl at him and slap him under his jaw, then put him on a long down in a place where you can silently glare at him occasionally. Release him without fanfare after he has served his time.

Dogs that persist in inappropriately exerting their dominance should be put on a program of frequent daily long downs. If you continue to have problems with dominant behavior from your dog, you should contact a professional dog trainer.

If you need more information on training techniques regarding getting back the upper hand with a dominant dog, I highly recommend "People, Pooches, and Problems" by Job Michael Evans. It is a very thorough approach to handling the "recalcitrant" canine through a collection of behavior modification techniques. If you are just getting started with a puppy and want to prevent making mistakes that lead to these dominance problems, check out this book!

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