How To Teach Your Dog Place

Place is by far one of my absolute favorite directive as it is so very useful for so many situations and is a wonderful tool for building impulse control in puppies and dogs.

Place is by far one of my absolute favorite directive as it is so very useful for so many situations and is a wonderful tool for building impulse control in puppies and dogs. I met up with Page Fehling to film what it looks like to work with a dog who has never learned this before.

This directive means that your dog should stay within a designated area until released from that area. This is not the same as a sit or down-stay where the dog cannot change positions. Given that it is meant for long term use once a fully developed skill, the dog should be comfortable in place, meaning that she can stand up, turn around, lay down, or really assume any position so long as she stays within that designated area.

Place is a great safety tool in that it can mean the difference in your dog getting into something dangerous while you are not watching or not. Guests to your home will appreciate meeting a pup that has been in place long enough to be in a calm state of mind so as to greet guests with manners rather than jumping on them and potentially causing harm to them out of uncontrolled excitement.

In multiple dog households – work with only one dog at a time until all dogs have a solid understanding of the concept independently, then add in one dog at a time and use their names prior to directives so that they can differentiate who you are communicating with

Here are the steps to teaching place:

1. Preparation
Pick a surface that is easily distinguishable from surrounding surfaces, i.e. a small area rug, (no slip). Mix in some treats with part of their meal to use as reward.

2. Association
Toss treats to the mat with no verbalization – allow exploration of the surface
Try to toss rewards on the mat while the dog is still on the mat, head down, looking for food reward

3.Teaching the marker
Walk the leashed dog across the placemat and as the fourth paw hits, say “place” and reward. Pause on the mat, then walk away from the mat and say “off” reward your dog for following you as asked

4. Reinforcing the marker (place)
Walk your dog to “place” take a step back. If your dog stays in place as you step back, reward quickly.
Timing and consistency is key to build an accurate association with what you are asking
Repeat this step moving further back, rapid reward, changing position by the mat, (walking to the other side) rapid reward, and so on.

If your dog goes to leave the place mat, use your body to add a small amount of “pressure” to guide them back into place. If your dog is leashed, you can also use gentle leash communication to guide your dog to stay on the mat.

5. Reinforcing understanding of place
Standing still by the mat with your dog leashed, point to the mat and say “place”. If she puts all four on the mat, jackpot reward her. If she does not and only gets a couple paws up there, offer encouragement to get her there using “that’s it” then repeat the request again.
After she’s on the mat, ask her “off” while pointing, not walking. If she does it, jackpot reward.After practicing this maneuver repetitively, move yourself further and further away from the mat as you request her to “place” and then “off”

Randomize your reward (sometimes just one kibble, sometimes a whole jackpot reward)

6. Duration
Once your dog has a solid understanding of what you are asking when you say “place” and “off”, increase the length of time that you ask your dog to stay in that place. Start with 60 seconds and offer a reward here and there on the place mat for her staying in place. Increase to 2 minutes, then five, and so on. Sometimes offering encouraging verbal praise from a distance, sometimes offering a small food reward for holding, and every once in awhile, throwing in that jackpot reward.

7. Versatility with place
Using the finger point and switch up the “place” using a different surface. Perhaps an ottoman, a chair, or a different dog bed. Repeat “place”, holding that place as you increase distance, and “off” from the new location.

8. Distraction
Once your dog has all of the steps to place down, start building in small distractions such taking a toy out and tossing it not far from their place. The trick is to slowly introduce distractions and then turn it up a notch each time adding a higher level. After they get good at it at home, take them out to public places and practice in areas of low distraction, (at a distance from people at the park) all the way up to areas of high distraction, (a crowded area with people and dogs).

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