The Power of Place
"Place" is a common command used to communicate to your pet that they need to go to a certain spot, and stay there. It works wonders for creating a positive association with crating and can help to create an environment where your pet is able to calm down and rest.
Louie, my Aussie, has a history of anxiety. He was constantly whining, pacing, and begging to leave. Most of this came from my inability to communicate to him that any dangers in this world was for me to worry about, not him. He wouldn't listen and was constantly overwhelmed with the environment. I did not need him to be my guard dog. Teaching this command helped to put him in a mindset where he was outside of that anxiety, and able to trust that he would be safe. This allowed him to calm down, take in his environment, and listen to my cues.
As you can see, I have taught this command with several different materials ranging from blankets, to beds, to platforms.
How to Teach "Place"
It is easiest to teach this command with a raised platform bed, as it provides a clear boundary for where the dog needs to be. However, these can be out of budget. A dog bed, blanket, or rug can suffice as well. For purposes of clarity, I will be using the term platform when referring to whichever surface you have chosen.
Typically when this command is used, it is paired with the sit, or down command. This can help your dog transfer to a calmer mindset. If possible, get comfortable with these commands first.
Step 1: Begin by setting aside a handful of treats or kibble. Remember to accommodate for this in their daily caloric intake. Treats should only consist of 10% of their total diet. If your pet is not food motivated, I recommend using a collar and leash. Lure them towards the platform and take the training at their speed. If they jump right on to the platform, great! Reward generously. If they only put one paw on, that's cool too! This is a good indicator of where your dog's confidence level is at. This may take a couple techniques. Try: Luring with treats in your hand and reward as they move towards the platform, Toss treats on to the platform and allow the dog to move onto it on their own, Use gentle pressure to guide them on or near the platform, Offer no guidance and reward only when the dog moves on or near the platform. Each of these techniques have their own pros and cons, use what works best for you! Until we are comfortable with the platform, don't worry about adding a command, they won't know what it means.
Step 2: Once they are comfortable with standing on this platform, you can start to add a command. It does not necessarily have to be "Place", just something that you can remember and say relatively similarly every time. "Go lay down" works well for Louie and I. Say the command, then lure the dog on to the platform. It is important that you say the command, WAIT for a second, THEN lure. A common mistake is to say it as you are luring the dog, this tends to confuse the dog and they will be less successful in pairing the command with the action. Lure the pet less and less each time. You are ready to move to the next step when you can say "Place" and the pet will go to the bed without needing a lure. Make sure you reward in place instead of off the platform
Step 3: From here, I prefer to tack on either a sit, or lay down command. This helps to teach the dog that they can settle in this spot and relax. The idea is to say "Place", encourage the dog to sit or lay down, then reward in the position you prefer.
Step 4: Begin adding distance. Start a little further from the platform. If they look confused, add in a small lure to hint at what you are asking for. If your pet already knows the "Stay" command well, start them away from the platform, put the platform in between you and the pet, and command "Place." It tends to help with they are coming to you for the reward at the start.
Step 5: Increase the time you require for them to be in place before the reward. Start with small increments of time. Eventually they should learn that the more time they spend there, the better!
Step 6: For an added bonus, teach this command with a platform, towel, or bed that is transportable. This way you can use it in several different scenarios.
What Can I Use Place For?
SO MANY THINGS! Teaching your pet how to settle can apply to just about everywhere you take your pet. Here are some examples:
Getting a weight on your pet. Surprisingly, one of the biggest fear factors of the scale is getting on a platform. Many pets don't understand that boundary and feel uncomfortable on a lifted platform. After teaching Place, they are often more comfortable getting on and staying still
Staying calm while waiting in the room. Try bringing a towel or blanket, often giving a physical aide such as a towel can help the pet stay calm and still. The more they pace, the more worked up they get.
Procedures. All pets at one point or another will stay at either a groomer or vet clinic for several ours. Whether this is for a routine spay/neuter, dental appointment, or drop off appointment, they will eventually need to hang out in a kennel. Teaching them place helps them to understand it is ok to stay calm and be confined to one area
Greeting at the door. Many pets rush to greet you or guests at the door and get over excited while doing so. Teaching them to go to their place at the sound of a door knock can help to mediate that excitement and provide safety for them as you don't have to worry about them running out the door
Having guests over. Pets tend to get excited or stressed when several people are at their house, teaching them they have a safe space to relax allows them to escape that heightened mindset if necessary. It will help to also instruct your guests not to bother the pet while they are at their place.
Car rides. Using a moveable blanket or bed can help your dog from pacing in the back seat. Laying down will also help to settle any nausea they may get from car rides.
Staying in hotels. Bringing a blanket or bed can provided consistency and a safe space for your pet, especially if new environments give them anxiety.
Settling at dog friendly stores and restaurants. Often they do not know what to do with themselves when you are sitting at the same table for hours. Help them to understand what you want their behavior to be by enforcing Place.
These are just a few places that this command can be used. Ultimately, I am focused more on changing the mindset of the pet rather than forcing obedience on it. Once they learn this command, they are well on their way to learning how to be calmer and less anxious out in the world.