How to Teach Place
Does your dog beg at the kitchen table?
Rush the door when the doorbell rings?
Knock over your kid’s board game?
Annoy you during the best part of movie night?
Have to be in the middle of everything with your new baby?
Does your dog get nervous when people arrive?
Place is one of the best skills you can teach your dog. It quickly becomes a fan favorite!
It’s a form of passive training overall, but great for calming dogs down and including them in the family activities without being in the way, etc. We use it to teach dogs to relax around things that might make them uncomfortable: strangers, other dogs, etc.
What you Need:
A non-slip mat, dog bed, or raised object like our preferred Pet Cots ®. He’s going to be there for a while, so make it comfortable.
A Leash & Collar
Up to an Hour to Keep an eye on your dog
How to Begin Teaching:
Holding the leash attached to the dog, walk him onto the mat
As his feet go on the mat say “Place” and as he feet step off say your release cue “Ok”
Practice 4-5 reps
The next time leave him on the mat
Until he chooses to sit or down OR until he steps off
If he steps off say “no, place” and guide him back on
If he sits or downs, praise him “good!” and then release him to come off
Repeat 4 or 5 reps
Advancing The Skill (over the next few days)
Set a timed milestone of 15-20 Minutes of this work. Start to watch for his indication of thinking about getting off the place – as soon as he makes the first step off, mark with “no & guide him back” – there will be NO RELEASE CUE in this exercise until time is up.
Drop the leash and start to sit across the room with a timed milestone. If he steps off, mark the error with “no”, get up and guide him back to place with your leash, and go sit back down.
Exit the room, leaving him on place. Initially, just disappear out of sight for a split second, return and release. Build your way to time out of the room leaving him on place.
Eliminate the leash.
Exit the house!
Create Distractions of the kids playing
Ring the doorbell. Use your kids or neighbors to help set up the scenario. Doorbell rings, you take the dog to place, walk away, greet your guest & he has to stay on place
In time, you may choose to release him to greet your guest if he has good manners.
Otherwise he holds his place command to observe and be present, but not interactive with the visitors. (See our blog articles about creating positive associations with strangers arriving)
Sending to Place:
Once your dog understands what he needs to do, start practicing send to place. Instead of escorting him all the way onto the object, you top short of the place mat, point to the place and he needs to take the last few steps on his own. Over several days, you stop further and further way as you point and sent to the place.
Place can move through your house – sometimes in the bedroom, living room, patio. You can even have more than 1 mat. Once taught, he will start to understand Place is the object you are guiding him too.
You can take place with you to the coffee shop, the ballgame, grandma’s house and know that your dog will understand he needs to stay put.
You can expect your dog to be able to hold place for a couple of hours on a comfy mat! Conference calls, visitors, dinner, etc.
Don’t issue any other command. Don’t tell him to sit or down on the place. On the place command he gets to choose his position and change his position to get comfortable as needed. If you put him in a down command – he needs to hold that command.
He doesn’t get to bark or whine on the place… and certainly not growl at guests. If you have an issue with growling, we should look at other goals for behavior modification.
If you are working with multiple dogs – teach each one independently, have a separate mat for each dog, and once they understand it, work them together.
We often place on park benches, retaining walls, big tree stumps, etc. on our walks. We make the real world our agility course and help the dog build confidence and trust in us – by using skills he understands.
When working multiple dogs in a pack introduction scenario– you may need to tether them to immovable objects for safety. Learning to relax around another dog (or other stressor) is extremely important to state of mind work.
Try getting your dog to place on ottomans or foot stools, upside down buckets, rocks, etc. Make them taller, smaller, wobbly, etc. The more you improve the more confidence your dog will have.
Remember always to create success! Reward and Praise for a job well done! Dogs get discouraged if the fail too many times. So when trying something challenging, be supportive, motivational, and create success. Back up a few levels of skill if necessary to get some easy wins.
The Coach’s Corner:
Place is one of the first commands we teach to all clients coming into our board and train program. And one of the first skills for all new clients.. For many dogs, they have never had to just be still and do it on their own restraint vs being crated. Sure, they would lay down somewhere on their terms, but to be required to lay down on someone else’s terms for an extended period of time is foreign to many dogs.
Some get really nervous. Some are very reluctant to lay down and rest. Our goal is to get them to settle down, relax and rest.
We then use place as a daily means of duration work to just be present without being active/busy or stressed out by everything else. It becomes a very safe comfortable spot, and many dogs will go to place on their own when they need to chill out a bit. It is fantastic for state of mind work during training, at home, or in new situations.
One Day One — This is a one hour exercise for me when I’m training. It sets the tone in a very easy, non-confrontational way.