The problem is that he is a basset hound, and I basically have to sweep his front legs out from under him if I want him to be laying down (he's too strong to just force down via the collar). Does anyone have any suggestions on other ways to train him for this?
when pushed or pulled on a dogs natural reaction is to resist. There multiple ways to teach down I will first give you may favorite and the way I know "teach" all dogs
First off you don't need the dog how to down, He already knows how to perform the physical act. What you need to do is teach him the meaning of a cue/comand This may sound like mear symantics but it is not. I use a method referred to capture.
some theory first because it will make appling the technique
1. a reward inorder to be effect must be delivered at the time of the behavior or shorthly there affter within a sec is though ideal but no more than three second.
2. In order to train a cue you need a predictable behavior see. How to Add the Cue
So the first step is to get a predictable down behavior and be redy to reinforce it. This will increase the reliability of the behavior.
So spend a day observe the puppy when is he likely to lie down. Does he have any rituals before hand. Once you decide on a likely time, situation besure you are ready to reward it. Let us say between 7.00-7.30 the dog lies down on his dog bed but circles first.
sp say a 7:00 oclock put a 10 or so small treats in your pocket and watch the dog. When it starts circling get ready to give the pup a treat as soon as he lies down, Move him off the bed and repeat. Soon he will be doing it faster and more often. Do the same thing at other times . locations and situation that he lie down and soon you will have the dog lie down more and more often and more predictably then you can add a cue
Like in the first case tell the dog 'Down" or what ever word you want to use for while he is circling just before you are sure he is going to lie down THe advantages are it is realitively fast the dog is more actively involed in using his brain so in essence he learns faster by allowing him to make descission about his behave rather than not give him a choice. So Many Methods, So Little Time: Canine Training Methods
for a more detailed explaination of capturing seeCapturing Behaviors
luring using a piece of food or other object or target to get the dog into postion. I find this method outlined esiest on a slick flooring surface(not carpet) Starting with the pup in a sit you are sitting or kneeling drectly in front. Using a piece of food or other object the dog will follow start directly in front of his nose down chest end up between his front feet but rear of his sturnum. THis requires the dog to push to the rear with the front to continue following if on a slippery surface the butt slides back as well
and alternative is the start with the dog in a standing postion and use the method above so you end up with a dog in a "Bow" position, You can put the bow on cue and train the down from their or just continue and wait the dog out in the bow eventually it will butt the but down as it tires and volia the subsuquent times the butt will go down faster and faster. Also you can physical manipulate the nutt into position as well While this method is general easier for humans to understand it can be confusing to the dog. The biggest draw back however are the number of superflouis cues that must be faded. The food, the stange hand movement etc. This slows the actual training process a lot
I will avoid free shaping entirely unless you want to enroll in clicker training classes the time and skill required takes time and effort to master. Those that do however it is a very powerfull tool.
for more on different way to get a behavior see How You Get Behavior Really Does Matter