Many balanced trainers focus on teaching the “place” command fairly early in the training process, but often when researching what you should be training your dog, this does not come up as one of the top contenders such as “sit” and “come.” As a balanced trainer and dog owner, I have learned that the “place” command is one of the most valuable commands that you can arm your dog with to allow him to lead a calm and well-balanced life.
Teaching the place command is simple. Select a surface to be used as your dog’s “place.” A towel or blanket will work, but a bed, pet cot, or something else with clear boundaries makes it easier for your dog to pick up at first. Put the selected object in the middle of the room and while on leash, walk your dog onto the object guiding him as necessary. As he steps on, use your confirmation command such as “good boy” or “yes” to mark the correct behavior. Repeat this many times, and start adding in the word “place” when he steps on with little effort. When releasing him from the command, use a release word such as “let’s go” or “break” so he understands that he does not break command unless instructed to do so. Once he understands the command, try taking away the leash pressure, and eventually adding distance between you the dog and his place. Continue this patterning until your dog will go on his place from across the room with just a command.
The purpose of the “place” command is to give your dog an area to simply exist in the house and where he can maintain his calm behavior amid the many distractions that may be going on around him. To get him to this point, we also need to add duration to this command. Some people find that back-tying the dog to their place is the best way to make sure they maintain their command, while others may prefer to hold the leash or physically block the dog from moving. Begin with small increments of time, and work your way up daily. It is important to remember to reward your dog for complying with a verbal “good place!” which also reminds him what he is working on.
A dog who understands the place command should be asked to use this command not just when visitors are coming over, or the mailman is on your street to control excitement (although it is a very powerful tool for this type of management). Most importantly, the dog should know that this is his place to fully relax and relinquish all control. It is a command that best reinforces boundaries and owner leadership. As I am sure many have heard before, once a dog understands that one boundary is negotiable, he will often see all boundaries as “suggestions” as opposed to the hard and fast rules they should be. As with all commands, consistency is key with the place command, and a dog should not be allowed to break while excited or on his own. If he does break command on his own, he should be reset on the place board and in a calm state before he is told to break.
Once this command is understood, it is easy to generalize and can be used in a variety of situations. You can travel with a place board or bed, allowing your dog to quickly pick up on what you are asking and allowing him to stay safe and out of trouble where ever you go. The place command can also be used for the car, asking a dog to jump in and remain there, doors open or closed, until you ask otherwise. There are a variety of places and objects you can ask your dog to get on and stay on with this one simple word.
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