The Difference Between “Off” and “Down”

The Difference Between Off and Down
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One of the most frustrating things I see people do with their dogs is confusing them with commands.  A perfect example is people who shout DOWN when their dog jumps up on people.  Most often this is the same command that they give when the dog should lay DOWN.  To make the situation even worse, they use the same command, DOWN to tell their dogs to get OFF of the bed, couch or wherever.

It’s not the choice of words that makes this wrong; it is the way the command is used in a confusing manner.  In order to teach a dog something clearly, one word means ONE thing.  For example: DOWN means lay DOWN.  So if your dog is jumping on someone and you say down you should expect your dog to lay DOWN where he or she is at that time.  If your dog is on your bed and you say DOWN, you should expect your dog to lay DOWN…. On the bed!

See: online dog training

Using the word OFF (and teaching it properly) is a much clearer way to communicate your wish to the dog.  Assuming your dog understands the DOWN command, I suggest that starting immediately you use the DOWN command ONLY when you want your dog to lay DOWN.  Reinforce this by teaching and rewarding the dog to DOWN when there are no distractions.  Once your dog understands this, then slowly introduce distractions, be they people, toys or other dogs – DOWN means DOWN.

Now, to teach OFF as a command, begin by having a short (4-6ft) dragline (made of nylon or canvas or thin leather) attached to your dog’s collar.  When the dog jumps onto your furniture, grab the line and him dog off of the furniture while giving the OFF command.  When the dog is on the ground you can reward him.  Be very consistent with this and ALWAYS use the command OFF to get your dog to understand that you want him to get OFF of the couch, bed or whatever.  Then move on to teaching the same around people.  If your dog jumps up on a person, give a gentle correction on the dragline and give the command OFF.  When the dog has all 4 of his feet on the ground praise him and give a treat.  Be sure that the person he is jumping on goes along with the program.  That means, do not give the dog attention (good or bad) when he is misbehaving.  ALWAYS reward the dog when he is calm.  While he is in the learning phase it is very likely that he may be calm for a minute and then go back to jumping in an effort to gain attention.  This is often the case with younger dogs.

The key point to this post is that you MUST be clear on commands with your dog.  DOWN means lay DOWN – OFF means get OFF of whatever you are “on.”

Clear communication is the key to a happy relationship with your dog.  Dogs are hard wired to please (at least most are), give them to tools to please you and you will have a very happy relationship for your entire lives.

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