It’s so easy to get stuck in a training rut. Some days it will seem like you’ve been working on a behavior for weeks and made no discernible progress, which is really frustrating. You might start to question your dogs intelligence, but really you just forgot a very basic tenet of dog training: once a behavior (or step to a behavior) is learned, only reward for average or better.
This prevents backsliding into things like lazy sits or sloppy downs. Wally has been laying down on command since he was 10 weeks old, but it’s not enough to just lay down anymore. Now I pick something specific to reward: only straight downs, only fast downs, etc. He only gets the reward if this down is as fast or faster than the one before. Eventually he will always offer a straight, fast down.
Of course, you might not care if your dogs down is fast, straight, etc as long as he’s down. In that case all you have to work on is proofing. But if you want to garner advanced titles in obedience like we do, you’ll have to work on the little details. It’s those details that make the clicker seem like a magic wand to me. Wally doesn’t understand subtly, but the sound of a clicker zings through his ADHD brain. If I just used a word or cookie he would have no idea that I was rewarding something as subtle as a down that’s straighter. He would think “I laid down! WOOT!”