Imagine you have guests coming for dinner. As you see them pull up in front of your house, you put your dog on place. When you open the front door to meet your guests, your dog stays on his bed. He does not run out the door. He does not jump up. He stays in place, quite comfortable on his bed. (If your dog is named Quincy, she might bark from her bed, but she will not nip at anyone’s heels.) As you prepare and serve dinner, your dog stays in his spot. He does not beg under the table, or sneak the food someone left on your coffee table. Your dog is the perfect party companion–sitting politely on his spot, available for a scratch if anyone is interested.
What does “place” mean?
When I put Sherlock on his Kuranda dog bed and tell him “place” he isn’t allowed to step off the bed until I say “free.” Sherlock can move around and make himself comfortable, but leaving the dog bed is against the rules. It requires more self control than crate training, and is a useful next step.
How do you teach “place”?
Before you begin teaching this command, I strongly suggest you crate train your dog. It will help him understand visible boundaries and get used to relaxing in a defined area.
To start training this command, I prefer an elevated dog bed like the Kuranda because the boundaries are clear for you and your dog. Other things will work, like a thick mat, but with an elevated bed, there’s no question about when your dog has a paw off his spot! And with dog training, you want everything to be as clear as possible!
Step One: Basic
To begin, Sherlock wore a flat collar and a six foot lead. The dog bed was set up in an empty field, and the other dogs were put away. We walked to the dog bed and when Sherlock stepped on it with all four paws, he earned verbal praise and a treat. Then, I dropped the lead and took two steps away from the dog bed. (If you watch the video you will notice a bit more chaos than I describe here. It’s all part of the work.) When he stepped a foot off the bed (or his whole body), I told him “NO!” and used his leash to put him back onto the bed. Then, I stepped away again, and after a second or two of staying in place, I told him he was a good boy and gave him a treat. When we were finished, I released him by saying, “Free!”
That was it for day one. It took no more than ten minutes.
Don’t move on to the next step until he’s successful! How fast you push your dog through the steps depends on how your dog is doing. That’s what makes dog training hard! There’s no formula that will work for every single dog. If he seems confused during your next training session, stay close, keep hold of the leash and give him a lot of treats for keeping all four paws on the dog bed!
Step Two: Movement
While your dog is on the place command, walk around the dog bed in a complete circle. Go clockwise. Then counterclockwise. Take two steps back and one step forward. Then give him a treat. A step off gets a loud, “NO!” Use the leash to move your dog back to his bed. He needs to learn that staying on the bed is good, and results in lots and lots of treats. (Remember to cut back his dinner on training days to ward off obesity and keep him healthy!)
When you can take five steps from your dog, and circle the dog bed in both directions without him moving, you’re ready for the next step!
Step Three: Sitting
Set up a chair ten feet from the dog bed. This time, when you walk away from your dog, ignore him, sit in your chair and count. The first time, count to two in your head, then get up and reward him. The second time count to five from your chair, then reward. Do not be predictable. If he gets a reward every single time you count to three, you’re teaching him to stay on his dog bed for three seconds, and that’s not what you want! You want a dog that stays on his bed until you release him with the “free” command.
Once you can sit in your chair for a minute or two without your dog leaving his bed, you’re ready to move on!
Step Four: Increase Time
This is my favorite step because it involves relaxing and watching television while your dog stays on place. Today, place the dog bed between your couch and your TV. Put your dog on place, and turn on the TV. Every few minutes, tell your dog he’s a good boy and give him a treat. If he steps a foot off the dog bed, say, “NO!” and use the leash to move him back to his bed.
When you can watch a 30 minute television show and your dog stays in place, you can kick it up a notch. 🙂
Step Five: Distractions
Leave the room for a minute. Then leave the room for two minutes.
Jump up and down five feet from his bed.
Let another dog run loose in the house.
Have someone ring the doorbell.
Go into the kitchen and open the fridge. (This one gets Quincy. She’s on high alert for the sound fridge door opening, since every now and then it means she gets a treaty treat.)
As your dog’s self control improves, put a couple of distractions together. Every time your dog makes a mistake, the consequence is a “NO!” and being led back to his bed. Don’t forget to reward him when he does a good job too! Your consistency as a trainer has a tremendous impact on how quickly your dog learns! Dogs learn best when rewards and consequences are clear!
This is such a useful command! Whether you have one dog or five, living in a house where the dogs are all place trained is much more pleasant. They learn their bed is a spot to relax. They stay out of the way of guests. They don’t drive you crazy chasing each other around the house! The place command will bring you and your dog/dogs much needed tranquility. Not only that, but it keeps the furniture clean!
Enjoy the video! (How can you not? There’s baby footage of Sherlock! He was only five months old!)