There are hundreds (if not thousands) of dog training ‘experts’ that will tell you to teach the ‘down’ command from a sitting position. While this may be the easiest way to teach your Dane the ‘down’ command, it is not the best way. You want your Great Dane to lay down on command without sitting first.
To accomplish this start with your dog in a standing position with a favorite toy or treat in your hand. Do not lift the treat above the dog’s head as this will typically cause them to sit. Instead, hold the treat in a closed hand in front of the dog’s nose, slowly lower it to the floor between his forepaws. When your Dane lowers their head to follow the treat, slowly move the lure forward while giving the ‘down’ command. As your Dane follows the treat he will stretch out into a prone position. Once he is laying down, praise and reward.
Once your Great Dane gets it right, stand up and give the ‘up’ or ‘stand’ command (even if they have never been taught this command). The simple act of you standing will typically encourage your Great Dane to stand as well and this is a perfect opportunity to begin associating the standing motion with a verbal cue.
Once your Dane is standing, praise them and begin working on the ‘down’ command again. After several successful repetitions, try mixing it up a bit by randomly using the ‘sit’ ‘stand’ and ‘down’ commands. Varying the order of instructions increases your puppy’s attentiveness and concentration and helps ensure that they are associating the correct behavior with the corresponding command.
For many canines learning the down command from a standing position can be difficult and it may take several training sessions for them to get it right. Patience and repetition are the keys. If your Dane struggles with the ‘down’ command do not get frustrated; different dogs learn at different rates. Always end your training sessions on a positive note and with a command your Dane understands.