Nine Steps to Teaching Your German Shepherd to Sit and Lay Down

Nine Steps to Teaching Your German Shepherd to Sit and Lay Down

Training your German Shepherd to sit and lay down is fundamental for establishing good behavior and obedience. These commands are the building blocks for more advanced training and help in managing your dog’s behavior in various situations. Here’s a step-by-step guide to teaching your German Shepherd these essential commands.

Step 1: Establish a Positive Training Environment

a. Choose a Quiet Space

Select a quiet area with minimal distractions to conduct your training sessions. This helps your German Shepherd focus solely on you and the training process.

b. Gather Supplies

You’ll need a few essential supplies:

  • Treats: High-value treats that your dog loves.
  • Clicker: If you’re using clicker training.
  • Leash: To keep your dog close and attentive.

c. Set a Schedule

Consistency is key in training. Set a regular schedule for training sessions, ideally short sessions of 5-10 minutes multiple times a day.

Step 2: Begin with the “Sit” Command

a. Get Your Dog’s Attention

Stand in front of your German Shepherd with a treat in your hand. Make sure you have their full attention by calling their name.

b. Lure Them into Position

Hold the treat close to your dog’s nose and slowly move it upward over their head. As your dog follows the treat with their nose, their bottom will naturally lower to the ground.

c. Give the Command

As soon as your dog’s bottom touches the ground, say “Sit” clearly and firmly. Immediately give them the treat and praise them with positive reinforcement like “Good sit!”

d. Repeat and Reinforce

Repeat this process several times until your dog associates the command with the action. Practice in different locations to reinforce the command in various environments.

Step 3: Introduce the “Lay Down” Command

a. Start from the Sitting Position

Once your dog reliably sits on command, you can begin teaching them to lay down. Have your dog sit in front of you.

b. Lure to the Ground

Hold a treat in your hand and let your dog smell it. Slowly lower your hand straight down to the floor, guiding your dog’s nose to follow. As their nose goes down, their body will follow into the laying down position.

c. Give the Command

As soon as your dog’s elbows and stomach touch the ground, say “Down” in a clear, firm voice. Immediately give them the treat and praise them enthusiastically.

d. Practice and Patience

Repeat this process several times. Be patient and consistent, as it might take a few sessions for your dog to fully understand and reliably follow the command.

Step 4: Use Positive Reinforcement

a. Reward Immediately

Always reward your dog immediately after they perform the desired behavior. This helps them make the connection between the command, the action, and the reward.

b. Verbal Praise and Petting

In addition to treats, use verbal praise and gentle petting to reinforce good behavior. Your German Shepherd will respond well to your positive tone and affection.

Step 5: Introduce Hand Signals

a. Adding Visual Cues

Once your dog reliably responds to verbal commands, introduce hand signals. For “Sit,” use an upward motion with your hand. For “Down,” use a downward sweeping motion.

b. Consistency is Key

Always use the same hand signals each time you give the command. Consistency helps your dog learn to associate the visual cue with the action.

Step 6: Gradually Reduce Treats

a. Intermittent Reinforcement

As your German Shepherd becomes more reliable in following commands, start reducing the frequency of treats. Use intermittent reinforcement to keep them motivated. Occasionally reward them with a treat, but not every time.

b. Increase Verbal Praise

Increase the amount of verbal praise and petting to compensate for the reduction in treats. Your dog should continue to feel rewarded and encouraged.

Step 7: Practice in Different Environments

a. Generalization of Commands

Practice the commands in various settings—indoors, outdoors, and in places with more distractions. This helps your German Shepherd generalize the commands and respond reliably regardless of the environment.

b. Increase Distractions Gradually

Start with minimal distractions and gradually increase the level of distractions as your dog becomes more proficient. This builds their ability to focus on you despite the surrounding stimuli.

Step 8: Use a Leash for Control

a. Maintain Close Control

Using a leash during training can help maintain control and ensure your dog stays focused. It’s particularly useful in environments with higher levels of distractions.

b. Gentle Guidance

Use the leash to gently guide your dog into the sitting or laying down position if needed. Avoid harsh corrections; instead, use the leash to assist and reinforce the commands.

Step 9: Be Patient and Consistent

a. Patience is Essential

Training takes time, especially for more energetic and intelligent breeds like German Shepherds. Be patient and avoid getting frustrated if progress seems slow.

b. Consistency Builds Reliability

Consistency is crucial in training. Use the same commands, hand signals, and rewards every time. Consistent training sessions build your dog’s reliability in responding to commands.

c. Celebrate Progress

Celebrate small milestones and progress in your dog’s training. Every step forward is a success and helps build your dog’s confidence and obedience.


Teaching your German Shepherd to sit and lay down is fundamental for a well-behaved and obedient dog. By following these nine steps—establishing a positive environment, starting with the sit command, introducing the lay down command, using positive reinforcement, incorporating hand signals, gradually reducing treats, practicing in different environments, using a leash for control, and being patient and consistent—you can effectively train your German Shepherd. With dedication and consistency, your German Shepherd will master these commands, enhancing their behavior and strengthening the bond between you and your loyal companion.

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