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My lab mix puppy will be six months next week. We have been working on private/group training since she was 14 weeks or so. Up until this week she has been extremely easy to train and very food motivated. All of the sudden at basic obedience school graduation a few nights ago she started refusing to go down on command. She is still doing all her other tricks/commands but when I say down, she scurries away from me with her ears back. It doesn't matter what the reward is either. DOes anyone have any experience with this? Advice?
 

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Sounds like weird teenager pup behaviour lol. I would just teach your dog "down" from the basics. Just make sure you are using positive methods only (like using a lure instead of jerking at his collar, etc.).
 

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How have you been training her? Anything she may find frightening? Has she ever been scared (e.g., loud noise, new person, strange object first encounter with strange object) when she's been in a down position? What kind of surface? Is it always the same surface or will she down on carpet but not tile, for example?

Could she be injured or sore from something?
 

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Definitely not injured or sore, she will lay down on her own terms. Recently when she was in a perfect down position on her own, I came over with treats and said "down, good girl." She immediately cowered and sat up. I have only been training with positive reinforcement, mostly with food. She does go to doggy daycare a few times a week so I can't say without a doubt that she has not had a negative experience in the position. The fact that she will do it on her own, but not to my command makes me wonder if it is some sort of submission thing?!
 

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Definitely not injured or sore, she will lay down on her own terms. Recently when she was in a perfect down position on her own, I came over with treats and said "down, good girl." She immediately cowered and sat up. I have only been training with positive reinforcement, mostly with food. She does go to doggy daycare a few times a week so I can't say without a doubt that she has not had a negative experience in the position. The fact that she will do it on her own, but not to my command makes me wonder if it is some sort of submission thing?!
I don't think it's a submission thing. Why don't you try clicker training her? Don't approach her when she does it. Just wait until she offers the behaviour, mark it with a click, and then throw her a treat. Don't even introduce the command yet until she starts offering the behaviour on her own.
 

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If there's nothing physically wrong, from your description it almost sounds like she's made a negative association with the word "down." Personally I would try re-teaching it with a different word as the cue to see how she reacts. If everything is fine, then that cue probably just got poisoned somehow.
 

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If there's nothing physically wrong, from your description it almost sounds like she's made a negative association with the word "down." Personally I would try re-teaching it with a different word as the cue to see how she reacts. If everything is fine, then that cue probably just got poisoned somehow.
I agree with this. Use "lay". Or "Diet Coke", dogs don't speak English.
 

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Could be a teenager thing. Around 7 months my pup just refused to lay down in class. It wasn't every time I said "down" though, just one or two specific situations, but he would just look off into space and ignore me. We just kept training and I tried to take a step back to make it easier for him, and after a month or two he was back to normal. A lot of things tend to slip during the teenage things and they suddenly look like they have never heard "sit" before in their lives.

ETA: I agree that re-teaching it with a new cue is probably a good idea. It does sound like she has made a negative association with it, vs just ignoring you or forgetting what it means.
 

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I agree with Sass and Amaryllis primarily because of this comment, "when I say down, she scurries away from me with her ears back." In my inexperienced view, if it were just a teenage thing, there wouldn't be scurrying with ears back. Or maybe there would, just doesn't match anything I've read. What I've read about teenage rebellion seems more like what Elrohwen said about looking into space and ignoring, or walking away, or just not moving.

My dog is too old to be a teen, but lately she's gotten squirrelly about her harness and collar. But, when she runs away, she play bows, picks up toys and throws them, jumps around, and pretty much does everything she can to get me to play.

Will your pup down with a hand signal? Maybe start from there - hand signal with great rewards, and then introduce a new cue word.
 

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I'd agree that the command has been poisoned somehow and re-training with a new word would probably help. If I had to guess I'd say "down" is probably the second most poisoned command in training behind "come." While you teach "down" to mean lay down so many people will say "down" when a dog jumps on them, they want them off furniture etc and it may lose it's meaning as you trained it. I'm always trying to get people to use the correct term "off" if Jubel is excited and jumping on them in greeting, doesn't happen often but the few people he does jump on always start saying "down".
 

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Its a teenage thing. I guess you could try re training but i honestly (sorry if it offends others) think it would be a waste of time. They are starting to mature, and will be moody and stubborn and just a pain in the rear. Just keep trying so he doesn't forget the command , but dont get to frustrated if he still refuses. Hes just being a teenager ahah


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Eh, it doesn't seem like "definitely" a teenage thing to me, given that the dog is doing the rest of her commands normally and the specific reactions to the word "down" the owner is describing. Especially when she was already lying down but cowered and sat up in response to hearing "good down" - she isn't being asked to do anything there, it seems like a response to the word to me.
 

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Eh, it doesn't seem like "definitely" a teenage thing to me, given that the dog is doing the rest of her commands normally and the specific reactions to the word "down" the owner is describing. Especially when she was already lying down but cowered and sat up in response to hearing "good down" - she isn't being asked to do anything there, it seems like a response to the word to me.
Okay yes re-reading it, as i have a tenancy not to read everything, id say a different word. I train my dogs in German. Sits would be easy as its pronounced "siitz" and down would be "platz" i train all my dogs in German, jut because i think its fun, i train a lot of rescues in German, as i had one dog that was abused when they didnt listen to a command so i trained them in German and they are fine.

Its fun and different so maybe try German? Or french? Or another language ahah. Pick a language ;) its fun an you dont have to worry about your dog being afraid. :)


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The dog's letting you know that the exercise is not fun. Bring fun into it, down and immediately release with toy of food (whatever she likes best) play, play and play. Down again and repeat then call it a day. Bring fun, dog will do it willingly and fast. Duration comes last.
 

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Especially when she was already lying down but cowered and sat up in response to hearing "good down" - she isn't being asked to do anything there, it seems like a response to the word to me.
Not only rectifying the situation with a new cue, I'd be equally as concerned with whatever catastrophic event(s) actually took place to poison the cue, to the extent that the dog now shies away and cowers at the mere mention of the word "down". I'm reluctant to point fingers, but, ie: daycare ???

I just don't think it's as simple as 'give it a new cue, la-dee-da it's fixed, now let's move on'. I think it warrants further and deeper consideration as to what's behind it.
 

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Have you done any clicker training? I would start over with the down. Just wait till the dog does it on his own, click and treat. Do not use the word down at first and like many have said, when you add a word use a different word. My sister had trouble with her dog on the table in Agility as when she said "down" the dog would jump off. She used the word "drop" (which would not work if you have trained your dog to drop things on command) but it worked for him.
 

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Not only rectifying the situation with a new cue, I'd be equally as concerned with whatever catastrophic event(s) actually took place to poison the cue, to the extent that the dog now shies away and cowers at the mere mention of the word "down". I'm reluctant to point fingers, but, ie: daycare ???

I just don't think it's as simple as 'give it a new cue, la-dee-da it's fixed, now let's move on'. I think it warrants further and deeper consideration as to what's behind it.
Agreed - I'd want to see what might have caused this, especially if it's sudden. From the description, it's such a drastic change in her character from being easy to train and food motivate to cowering when offered a reward and approached by her person.

For the behavior itself, yeah - try a new cue, etc. But for the larger issue of such a change in demeanor in such a specific situation, I'd want to try to figure it out and watch for it spreading to other situations.
 

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Agreed - I'd want to see what might have caused this, especially if it's sudden. From the description, it's such a drastic change in her character from being easy to train and food motivate to cowering when offered a reward and approached by her person.

For the behavior itself, yeah - try a new cue, etc. But for the larger issue of such a change in demeanor in such a specific situation, I'd want to try to figure it out and watch for it spreading to other situations.
Thank you everyone for your replies and input...I definitely think there is some negative association there..I cannot pin point anything except daycare, although, my pup is pretty sensitive girl so maybe I inadvertently negatively reinforced a down?? I have no idea!

Having a friend's wife who is a dog trainer evaluate her today, but plan on taking a break and reintroducing it with a different command
 

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Recently when I've been taking Linken for walks he will also refuse the down command, but he would do all his other commands. One feel of the ground and how hot is was and I figured out why he wouldn't want to lie down on it....and fair enough, neither would I.

I guess my point is there can be all sorts of reasons why your dog won't lie down, some of them easier to figure than others...although in your situation it does just sound like it's a bad association.

I also second teaching dogs in a different language. I speak Chinese at home now, but I teach the dogs in English. The dogs definitely can pick up that we are talking to them and not just talking this way. I've also been tols I have didferent voices when speaking different languages though...just the other day someone told me my voice when speaking Chinese is slightly efeminite
 
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