Teaching your dog to lay down is going to be a very similar process to teaching them to sit when it comes to using your clicker.
Once again, you are going to start simple: help them into position, use a hand gesture, then add the voice command.
The biggest thing here is that you want to use one concise command, such as “down” or “lay” try to use a one syllable word (most commands are short and sweet!) and keep it associated with the correct behavior. What I mean by this is the common mistake that a lot of people make- they teach their dogs “down” when they want them to lay down, but they also say “down” when they want them to not jump up on them or on the counter. (In that case you may want to use the word “off” instead) This just helps clear up the confusion!
Start with your dog on a leash and with your treats and clicker ready. (Load the clicker a few times if you need to review)
Next, step gently on the leash so that it begins to pull your dog’s collar slightly. At the same time, take a treat and hold it in front of the dog’s nose, guiding them gently to the floor. The moment their elbows touch the ground you should click and treat. Do this a few times until they start to get the hang of it.
Once your dog is getting the idea of what “down” means, start adding in a hand gesture with the command, such as pointing at the floor. You can continue to step a little bit of pressure onto the leash if needed, but begin to wean away from helping them. Point at the ground and say “down”. If your dog doesn’t do it immediately, give him a second to think. Usually they will lay down after they process what it is that you want- allowing them to figure it out for themselves helps them learn. If your dog is really lingering you can always say “uh uh!” (the command for letting them know they’re not doing something correctly) and wait for them to do it.
You don’t want to wait too long, so if this gets to be any longer than a minute you should go back to reviewing and helping them lay down. You want to set your dog up for success- don’t get frustrated if they are not understanding what you want!
Typically dogs really want their treat and when they aren’t getting it they will want to try a few different things until they do. Your dog may even sit for you- just ignore any behavior other than laying down. Once he lays down and his elbows touch the floor you can click and treat.
A common mistake is to click too early. Dogs like to be lazy and sometimes they won’t lay down completely. Don’t let them cheat! Make sure they have completely laid down before they get the reward. Another thing that may happen is your dog lays down, but then he pops up to take the treat from your hand. If this happens, make sure to correct him by either putting him back into the down position, or by saying “uh uh!” and waiting for him to lay down again.
Once your dog is good with the hand gesture, try using just the command. This may take them a little longer because they often rely on that hand gesture, and it is not quite as easy as “sit.” Follow the same guide line with letting your dog figure it out. You may have to review a hand gesture (sometimes alternating the command with a gesture can help implement it into their learning.) This stage may take a little time so have a lot of patience.
Another helpful tip is to reward big when they do something correct. For instance, let’s say that your dog has been laying down with your help, but now you are trying to get him to lay down with just a hand gesture. You give the command, he thinks about it and then lays down. Make it a big deal! Not only should you click but give him a lot of verbal praise and a few extra treats. Dogs know the difference with the amount of treats they are being given, and making their feat a big deal helps motivate them to do it again.
Remember that timing and patience is everything!