Sit, Down, and Stand: Compulsion

Compulsion, or physically (not forcefully) positioning your dog, can be used to back up commands originally taught using luring, or to teach the behaviors if you don’t want to use luring. As with luring, you’ll use the command one time as your dog is getting into the position. Remember to CR/ treat if you’re using this method to teach the command.


To physically position your dog in a sit, hold her collar right behind her head with your right hand (or you can hold the leash so it’s taut straight over her head), so there is light upward pressure. With your left hand, stroke down her back. You can try giving her a little pressure on her loin (where her waist is, if looking at her from above) or butt, but you may need to run your hand past her butt, into the dip in her hind leg. Use the side of your hand to tuck her into a sit. CR/treat if you’re using this method to teach the sit, or praise her if you’re using it to back up an ignored command.

Many dogs will sit in response to a little steady, upward pressure on the collar without any of the extra physical help. Try it after your dog has some understanding of the sit command. Release the pressure immediately when she sits.

Should I give my dog a treat if I’m using compulsion to enforce a command my dog knows but ignored? If you’re sure your dog knows the command (you’ve taught it in lots of different places, and she usually responds on the first command), praise her when you get her into the position, but no treat. Save treats for rewarding correct responses that you don’t have help with.


There are several ways to physically get your dog into the down position. For many dogs, the path of least resistance lies in a little “magic button.” To find it, put your thumb through your dog’s collar at the base of his neck. Keeping the collar low on your dog’s neck, fan the rest of your fingers toward his tail. Find the valley between your dog’s shoulder blades, and apply steady pressure with one finger. Do not try to smoosh your dog into the floor; just keep a little steady pressure on, and wait for him to fold into a down. You can try this method from the sit or stand.

If your dog doesn’t have a magic button, or you can’t find it, you can try holding him by the collar with one hand, and with the other hand, in one sweeping motion, lift his front legs up and place him in a down. This method only works from the sit.

In a pinch, or if your dog is struggling with you physically, just stand on the leash so he can just barely stand comfortably and wait, for as long as it takes, until he lies down.


If your dog is sitting, scoot your toes right in front of your dog’s hind foot, just barely touching your dog’s toes with yours. Most dogs will kick right up into a stand. You can add a little forward pressure on your dog’s collar if necessary. If you need to use collar pressure, your hand (or the leash) should be under your dog’s chin, with the pressure away from your dog, parallel to the floor.

Like all mammals, dogs have an opposition reflex, which means they have a tendency to resist or push into pressure. For this reason, trying to use physical force to push your dog into a down usually results in your dog bracing himself against the pressure, resulting in confrontation instead of communication, and compromise between you and your dog.

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