The ‘lying down’ training is so easy that even people with no special aptitude for such things should be able to accomplish it. It should be started between the seventh and eleventh month of a dog’s life, according to whether it belongs to a breed which matures earlier or later.
A too early start is bad since it is too much to ask of a quicksilvery, playful pup that it should lie absolutely quiet to order; whereas in an older, more staid dog much less resistance has to be overcome in order to do so.
The lessons should be started on soft dry ground, a field for instance, where the dog will not object to lying down, and here he should be held firmly by neck and rump and pressed gently to the ground to the accompanying order of, ‘Lie down’ or other appropriate words which the trainer has decided to use; a certain amount of force may be necessary the first time the order is given.
Some dogs understand the command earlier, others later, and still others stand stiff as a wooden horse and only begin to grasp the situation when first their hind-legs and then their fore-legs are bent under them by force.
These preliminary stages may appear somewhat comical to an outside observer but it is astonishing how few repetitions of them are required to make the dog understand the situation and lie down spontaneously when the order is given.
From the very start, the dog should be prevented from getting up before he is told. It is wrong to teach him to ‘lie down’ and to ‘stay’ in two separate lessons. First of all, one should stay very close to the dog, moving one’s finger slightly just in front of his nose so that he gets no opportunity of getting up.
Then one suddenly calls ‘Come on’, runs a few paces ahead and caresses or plays with him as requital for his recent ordeal. Should the dog show signs of tiring and of avoiding his master in order to prevent a repetition of the exercise, the lesson should be interrupted and postponed till the day following. The duration of time for ‘staying’ should only be very gradually increased, and the trainer must exercise no little tact in finding a happy medium between severity and friendliness.
The lesson must never decline into play—this must here be reserved as a reward for achievement—and a young dog must never be allowed to respond to the command by playfully throwing himself upon his back. On the other hand, one must take great pains to avoid disgusting the dog with the whole affair.
When one has reached the stage where the dog will remain lying still for several minutes, one begins gradually to retreat from him, being careful at first not to move out of his sight, and when he is sufficiently familiar with this maneuver as to remain where he is for some minutes after his owner’s departure from his side, one can then move out of sight. One can facilitate this trial for him by leaving by his side one or two of one’s personal possessions, and the more articles one leaf and the bigger their size, the easier it will be for him to remain with them.
If one takes one’s dog camping and leaves him by the tent and blankets, he will, even if he has but a rudimentary idea of the foregoing lessons, remain by them for an indefinite period of time, waiting patiently for his master.
Should a stranger attempt to purloin something, the dog will become half frenzied with anger, not because he has a real sense of his duty to protect his master’s belongings, but because these objects infused with his master’s smell symbolize for him the home which in some way they represent, and give him the guarantee that his master will sooner or later return to the place.
Thus he is furious if anybody tries to remove them. And when one sees a well-trained dog apparently guarding his master’s briefcase, the psychological explanation is quite other than it appears to be. The article is in the dog’s mind a somewhat reduced symbol of the home, and the master has not left the dog there to guard the case, but the case to prevent the dog from departing.
An important point in this form of instruction, particularly when it is carried out in a neighborhood strange to the dog, is the choice of a suitable place for him to ‘lie down’. Before giving the command, one should always consider which place the dog himself would prefer if he were about to lie down to rest.
It is cruel to make a dog lie down in the middle of a crowded footpath where there is no cover, for, in such a place which, in his eyes, is entirely unsuitable for a rest, he will undergo mental suffering, whereas he will feel quite content if ordered to lie down in some quiet corner, preferably under cover such as a seat.
This rule should be more strictly observed because ‘lying down’ is a strenuous task, which involves a considerable mental effort on the part of the dog. Of course, good and appropriately strict training of this sort is no cruelty to the animal but, on the contrary, implies an enrichment of his life, since a well-trained dog can accompany his master almost anywhere.