Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Greyhound Downs 101

Class, today we learn about teaching greyhounds to lie down. First, let me introduce the student, Basso Profondo. I needed a greyhound subject who did not have a lot of training. Basso Profondo is a 6 year old coursing greyhound from England. He was the winner of the 2005 Waterloo Plate and 3 other stakes in his rookie year. Basso ran 16 courses that year and won 15 of them. That is big deal stuff! He came to the U.S. in 2006 - Greyhound Data Link.

Next, I have one anal rule for greyhound downs. I always teach greyhounds to lie down from a stand and for the rest of their lives, I only request downs from a stand. I never ever ask for a down from a sit position. Sits are already very difficult for many greyhounds and most of them would prefer to lie down. You can ruin a good sit by practicing and rewarding downs from the sit position. Your greyhound will forever be happy to melt into a down.

For those of you that compete in obedience and are wondering if I adhere to this rule for group stay exercises.... Yes. When the competitors line their dogs up in preparation for the long down stay, I am the only with a standing dog. Everyone else sits their dog before the judge cues us to down.

Let us get started. First, create a bridge for your greyhound to duck under. With Basso, I am down on one knee, but you can sit on a chair or a stool and bring both legs forward. Lure your greyhound with a treat under your leg(s), so he has to crouch. Be quiet! You are teaching a hand signal first. Chanting the word "down" over and over will not speed up the process.
I reward the greyhound for each step in the right direction he makes. First, I reward for ducking his head. Then I reward for elbows touching the ground and so on.Sometimes the rear end gets stuck in the air. I might place my hand on the greyhound's rump just to bring his attention to the area, but I never put pressure and try to force him down. Just let him get tired and he will eventually fold. This is a good time to jackpot and give the greyhound multiple treats so he knows that you really like this position.
Once your greyhound is down, get off of him. Move your leg(s) so he is not trapped if he decides to stand up.Lastly, I continue to reward the greyhound as long as he remains lying down. I want him to realize there is not rush to stand up and that I will keep rewarding if he holds his position.

When my greyhound is a super star at luring under my legs, I will try and lure him down with a treat while I squat down. Once he is a super star at that, I start ask for downs as I gradually move myself into a more upright position. The verbal cue is added much later.

Lastly, here are a few parting notes. This method generally does not work for greyhounds you never see lay in a sphinx position (see above picture). Some are just not comfortable. During training, if your greyhound lies down in any other position, rolled hip or flat out, awesome! Don't change a thing. Also, something like string cheese or a hot dog is a good treat for training the initial steps to down. The greyhound can nibble off bites as he ducks his head under you legs, another nibble for elbows down.... and so on.