Along with hand targeting (“Touch”) and “Find It” (nose work), my other favorite command is “Place”. There are several steps to “place” but the general idea is that your dog goes to its bed, lies down, and stays there until you tell him to get up. The times that this can come in handy are numerous. Here is a list of times you can use “place”: your dog is under foot while you’re making dinner, you are having guests over for dinner and do not want him begging at the table, you have ordered a pizza and you don’t want your dog running to the door, barking, when the delivery man gets to your house. Sending him to lie down on a specific place and relax is a great alternative to all these things.
The most recent time “place” has come in handy has been over the last 2 months that we have had our new dog, Bodie. Our dogs play really rough together. Not only does Desi literally chew up Bodie’s neck and ears (while she never has a scratch on her) but it is quite obnoxious to have a 60 and 80 lb dog slamming their bodies into you as you are trying to relax and watch a movie. Not to mention Desi lets out this intense scream, similar to when Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber asks, “Hey, want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?”, only it is a little lower pitched like if she could talk, she would have the voice of Marge Simpson’s sisters. This noise gets old really quick and makes it extremely hard for us to watch our movie!
So we started putting them both on their places while we had them out together. At first we had to reinforce quite often because they would immediately want to get up and start playing again but 2 months later, they will lay there for an hour while being reinforced very intermittently. A lot of times they will just fall asleep because they have been laying down, relaxing for so long. Although it is always trickier with two dogs, here are the steps for “go to your place (or bed)”.
- Walk over to your dog’s bed, point and look at it. Wait for your dog to step a paw onto it, when they do reward them. Continue to approach the bed and reward your dog for putting one paw on it, then two, then all four, then an automatic sit, then an automatic down. When your dog is going to his bed and doing an automatic down, you will add the verbal command, “go to your place” when you point to his bed. Ideally when you say “go to your place” your dog will go to his bed and lie down as this is the most relaxing position. After you reward them, you will use a release word (free, all done, release) to let them know they may get up.
- Next you want to be able to move around the room and do as you please while your dog stays on his bed. To teach this you will start in a similar fashion to “stay”. We will keep the same 3 D’s in mind, Duration, Distance, and Distraction. Start by holding 5 seconds while standing still in front of your pup, and then reward him. Move on to holding 10, 15, 20, etc. When your pup looks like he is losing focus, release him and give him a break. Next, you will add distance. Say “go to your place” wait for the auto down, take a step back, come back to your pup and reward. You will move side to side, back, around them in a circle, around the room, etc, always coming back to reward them. Release them and give them a break. The last step in this section is to add more distractions. When you move away from your pup, clap your hands, jog, go open the kitchen cupboards, fidget with things on the counter, etc. Again, always coming back to reward your dog for staying on his place. The more you practice this, the longer your pup should be able to wait for a reward. This way you can eat dinner, make food, write emails and only have to reward them once or twice in that span of time.
- The last step in this process is being able to tell your dog to go to their place from anywhere in the room or house even! You will do this step by step, literally. Start by taking one step away from their bed and ask them to go to their place, reward them if they do. Repeat this 5 times. Take two steps away from their bed, ask them to go to their place, reward them if they do. And so on and so forth. If your dog ever does not go their bed, go closer to the bed and do more repetitions.
AnimalSense’s Focus class is a great place to practice this very useful skill! Happy training everyone!