I have had chase for just under three weeks and he learned down reasonably well within about 3 days with a few sessions a day (that may or may not have actually included ‘down’). That is a FAR cry from teaching Ralph the bulldog to lay down. It has been a nearly 3 month process… yes, you read that correctly. It has probably been one of the most … challenging things for me to work through because it simply took a very long time and tons and tons and tons of patience.
Now, he is a walking client and the main reason I worked with him at all was because he always looked so sad while I worked his sister so I did some training with him as well. So, we didn’t work every day and we only had about 5-10 minutes to work on most days.
I tried using a food lure in about 4 different ways to get him to down, I tried using a hand target, and I even spent 10 days trying to shape (through successive approximations like lowering head, to bending elbows, to bending knees etc). I spent one day in the bathroom with him trying to capture a down and in 10 minutes he didn’t lay down (surprising right!) … since my main job was walking, I didn’t have the time to wait him out to capture a down–I suspect that this would have been a great way to get a down but for my situation it wasn’t effective.
I finally resigned myself to slowly getting him comfortable to go under my leg and just take it piece by piece. Initially going under my leg he would either just bull-rush through OR he would not even try if my leg was too low. So we worked on getting comfortable going under my leg and slowly worked to get him to go under even if it were low. It even pushed my patience and I’m pretty patient.
Early last week he offered two very slow and contemplative downs while working with him and things have just spiraled since. It was amazing… once he sort of had the light bulb go off, he was pretty quick to ‘learn’ the behavior. I was so proud of him for figuring out what earned the reinforcement and I think he was proud of himself.
After the initial break through, I brought my camera along to document the progress (his owners would be so impressed) and i’ve put together this short-ish video of teaching him to down. It really has been one of my biggest challenges but I’m proud to say we worked through it together and have had some nice success!
Enjoy Ralph the bulldog!