The best part about the “Show Belly” command is… a fuzzy puppy belly! Who doesn’t like puppy bellies? A handy command that will get your puppy or dog to flop down and willingly turn his belly up for your petting, perusal, patching, or scratching, is a wonderful command indeed.
“Show Belly” can be used to effectively groom your pup, inspect for problems, to position your dog for nail clipping, and to provide you access to the best spot for a doggy belly rub!
Here's how to train your dog to show his belly.
Command 12 - “Show Belly”
Step 1a: Begin with your pup on a leash (you do not have to hold it). He should be attentive and ready to learn. As always, when learning a new behavior, you are in a quiet environment with treats at the ready.
Step 1b: With your pup watching you, give him the “Down” command. Smile at your dog and praise, “Good Down!” (You are halfway there!)
Step 2a: With a treat in your hand, remind your pup to stay down and then say, “Shaggy, Show Belly.” Allow your pup to sniff at the treat and follow it with his nose while you draw your hand diagonally toward and over his hip slowly. As his nose follows your hand with the treat, he will drop onto his side. Repeat “Show Belly” and encourage him with, “That’s It! Show Belly!” as he relaxes onto his side. Then bring the hand with the treat to his nose again and lure him onto his back, keeping your commands and the movements calm and smooth, repeating, “Show Belly.”
Step 2b: Once he is on his back, keep repeating, “Yes! Good Show Belly!” while you gently and calmly pet and stroke his fuzzy belly. Smiling, verbal praise, and pets are enough to show him how pleased you are. Do not feed him a treat while he is lying on his back to avoid a choking hazard. You can treat him once he is upright again.
Step 3a: While your pup is on his back and belly up, now is the time to quietly start exploring his body – run your hands along his belly and sides. Feel his legs, starting from the underarms and going all the way to his toes. Pat his thighs. Rub under his chin. Check out the parts not seen at a glance. Don’t forget the tail too! Keep your movements calm and soothing.
Step 3b: You will want to work up to a full body exam. At first just do a short soothing rub before letting your pup get up. You want to give him the command to rise or release – he should not get up without you telling him to. If he does start to get up, just say “No,” and repeat “Down” and “Show Belly,” using the treat in your hand to guide him where you want him to be and rewarding him with smiles and pets when he’s there. As he learns the “Show Belly” command and relaxes into it, then you can start doing longer exams, groom him all under, or clip his toenails while he is relaxed and toes up.
The “Show Belly” command should be an enjoyable command for both you and your dog. Besides being awfully cute, it is also a very important command that will enable you to properly groom, inspect, and care for him in case of an injury or wound without a struggle. Enjoy those fuzzy bellies!
Teaching Your Dog "Down"
Now that you have effectively taught your dog how to sit, it is now time to teach him how to lay down on command. Sit and Down are known as controlled positions for your dog. Controlled positions tell your dog what they should be doing when your attention is not focused on them. For example, you may be on the phone, watching TV, or doing the dishes, and the “Down and Stay” command will show your dog that this is not an opportunity to explore.
Leaving your dog with the freedom to decide what to do when you are not focused on him may lead to him developing bad habits. The causes of bad habits are not limited to boredom or lack of direction, it is also important that your dog does not develop a habit of deciding what he should be doing next. Therefore, depending on the age of your dog, their attention span might be limited to a few short minutes. So if you find yourself needing uninterrupted focus on your task, you may want to put your dog in their kennel until you are able to focus on him again.
Remember in tip 8, the kennel is not a negative place for your dog; rather, it is their sanctuary, as long as you use it appropriately. If you choose to allow your dog freedom when you are not able to focus on him and he rummage through the garbage, do not correct your dog by putting them in their crate. By using the crate as a correction method, you are teaching your dog that their sanctuary is now a dungeon, and your dog will begin to resist kenneling on command. Controlled positions help prevent bad habits, so let’s learn how teach your dog to lay down on command.
Command 11 – “Down” or “Lay Down”
“Down” or “Lay Down” means the dog belly is touching the ground. Note: Use when you’re going to be in one place for more than a minute or two.
In the beginning, teaching your dog “down” is easiest when they are already sitting. Once your dog understands what “Down” means, you can begin to fade this step out.
Step 3: The moment your dog’s elbows touch the floor, say “Yes” as you are simultaneously give them the treat.
Your dog may pop back into a sit as soon as you give the treat; this is okay because your dog is still learning what the command “down” means. Instead of correcting your dog for doing being excited and popping up, repeat steps 1 through 3, maximizing their positive energy.
Step 4: Repeat steps two and three for a minimum of three consecutive times, include step one as needed.
Step 5: Similar to teaching your dog to sit, you will begin to decrease the hand motion, add gentle scratching and petting his back when Buddy lays down. This reinforces that laying down not only provides food and verbal reward, but also offers a physical connection.
Once your dog is laying down without targeting and hand motions, you can up the level of difficulty by adding the “Stay” command to the sequence from tip #10.
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All training tips in this series are from ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.