This method of teaching the Down command includes the use of a hand signal,which cansignificantly speed up learning and is invaluable for distance work.
With your dog seated, stand still and give the command ‘Down’. Within a second, hold a treat or favourite toy in one hand and lower it to be level with the dog’s nose. Move it down to the ground and forward so she automatically goes down after it. As the dog reaches the required position and her elbows touch the floor, give her the reward.
If it is difficult to persuade your dog to lie down, kneel on one knee with the other foot on the ground and move the treat/toy from the dog’s nose down and under your leg so she must go down to the ground to reach the reward. Release her from the ground with the ‘Sit’ command or other command allowing her to play.
Keep practising this exercise until the dog knows what to expect and reliably performs the action.
At this stage place the reward between your fingers and use the flat of your hand to indicate a downward movement to the floor. When your dog reliably follows the hand to the floor, transfer the treat to the other hand and reward from this hand once she is lying down. This helps her to recognise that the flat hand is a signal and not just the source of a reward.
Continue with the exercise, but do not always give a reward, restricting it to random occasions when the dog has performed exceptionally well.
Over time, do not take the hand all the way to the floor and ultimately you will be able to stand up straight and command a Down by moving the flat of your hand downwards.
Eventually the action will become habitual and the reward can be eliminated, but always praise the dog for doing what is commanded and offer her a life reward occasionally, such as play or a toy. A treat can be offered very occasionally to keep her on her toes.
Practice this exercise with your dog in different positions relative to you, not just immediately in front of you.