PLACE, Place, place.” What the heck is it and why should you use it with your pup? I use “Place” daily in my training with EVERY puppy and dog. I use it because it teaches a pup and a human how to be better connected and how to have a calm state of mind. A tall order for sure, but truly, “PLACE” done right, does achieve those goals.
“Place” can be a dog bed, a blanket, a matt, a folded towel, sweatshirt, or anything else rather comfortable. I use raised dog beds when training “Place” for two reasons:
1) Dogs love them. They are comfortable. They are warm in winter and cool in summer.
2) Most importantly, it makes it abundantly clear to both the dog and the human when they are getting off. The use of “Place” helps to lay the foundation in your dog for so many things like: patience, impulse control, the ability to withstand duration of a calm state of mind, the ability to be calm in the face of a known trigger (like doorbells, food, etc.), a future ‘down’ or ‘sit’ with duration, relaxation, overall calm state of mind, respect of space…just to name a few.
“Place” is where a dog can relax, chill out, hang out, eat a meal, get softly brushed, massaged, etc. So “Place” is the place where all good things happen!
Here is what “Place” is NOT: “Place” is not punishment. “Place” is never used in anger. “Place” is not commanded with an angry or cautionary tone. “Place” is not a grueling ordeal like a military ‘stand at attention’ until you break emotionally or physically.
“Place” is NOT a spot for you to go off and forget about your pup. Supervision is still very much a part of “Place”, especially when dealing with a pup. “Place” is not optional; it begins and ends upon your invitation.
You begin “Place” with a pup in very small doses. I put a pup on “Place” at the beginning of a commercial and invite them off at the end of the commercial. Then, I go for two commercials and I build from there. Eventually, you can easily have a pup successfully on “Place” for an hour or so, as you watch a movie, or sweep the patio and pull weeds.
You guide your pup onto ‘Place’ by giving direction from your lead or pups collar and guide them onto place as you walk purposefully toward it. As you guide your pup onto the place, say “Place” as pup steps onto it, And, every once in a while, you can even toss a treat onto “Place” as they step onto it and they magically find a treat there. It’s the dog’s choice to stand, sit or lay down. He just can’t get off. Once on “Place” be sure to quickly release all lead or collar pressure. The goal to work toward is where you are able to keep your pup on “Place” without holding onto the lead.
The goal is that pup stays on “Place” until invited off. Yes, that does mean that if he gets off, you need to put him back on, IMMEDIATELY. And yes, that means EVERY TIME he gets off uninvited. I ask humans to use as few words as possible while pup is on “Place”. I am asking both dog and human to begin to clue into each other and to be aware of what is going on. If pup looks like he is going to step off, relax/breathe as you move in towards him and give him a warning sound. If he stays on and looks at you, relax and take ½ step back. If you need to, use leash pressure to put him back to “Place.” Then, as he is able to tolerate it, keep stepping ½ step back slowly. Keep breathing!
Slowly, you can introduce movement and distractions around your pooch as they relax on “Place”. Once “Place” is firmly established in your dog’s life and helps to promote a calm mindset in your dog, you can begin to add the things that ‘trigger’ your dog like: doorbells, open doors, food, other dogs, food, toys, etc. It’s not enough to tell your dog “No, don’t chase after that toy or bolt out the door”, you have to show him the right thing to do instead when faced with that exciting stimuli. “Place” is the place where he can comfortably tap into calm, even in the face of the thing that used to send him to the stratosphere.
How you exit “Place” is as important as the calm you have achieved while on it. When you have pup calm, quiet and relaxed, that is when you go to him, gently massage him and quietly take his lead and step off a few steps finishing in a quiet sit. By not talking or barking out commands you are actually helping your pup maintain all the calm that was achieved while on “Place”. And, when you begin to move off “Place”, should your pup decide to stay, just keep moving with steady pressure until pup comes along with you. One of the reasons you have your pup’s lead on is so you can offer a bit more guidance if needed. Ultimately, NOT COMING when invited is not on the list of available options!
“Place” teaches our pups as much as it teaches us. Both partners are learning patience, consistency, mutual understanding and an appreciation for reading each other’s body language better. It’s a powerful thing when we establish a calm state of mind and clear lines of communication with our pups, and when we learn how to do it with no words at all….PRICELESS!