There are several things I like to teach my client's dogs that are not on the usual list at other obedience classes. Typically you learn the sit, down, come etc. But there are a couple of behaviors that quickly become essential when you have dogs or even just one dog. One of those behaviors is "place." This is my term but you can call it anything you like, that like any other exercise or behavior.

Place basically means to go to a certain place or object when told to do so. In my training we use it most commonly for when you'd like to answer the door in peace. Or when you have friends over who are not so keen on your dog; but you can use it whenever you like once it is a trained reliable behavior. It is fairly easy to teach and usually become and exercise that dogs enjoy. I once had a labrador client, adorable little thing she was. She was so enthusiastic about this exercise that when she heard the word "place" she would charge through the house and dive onto her pre designated "place" which was her bed and await her reward; this at the age of only 3 mos.

Now, place can mean a certain object or particular spot. It could mean the corner in the front hall, the spot by the fireplace or a rug or dog bed which can be moved around. It is important to decide this before teaching it. Once you have decided where "place" will be in your home you can start the learning process.

It all starts out by guiding the dog, actually taking them to the spot that you are going to call their place. You want to try to use your body more than your hand to guide them there. From past experience when you point many dogs jump up to your hand, especially the overly excitable ones. So just walking to the "place" and rewarding them for hitting the spot works best. You can add your hand point once the dog has the general idea of what "place" means. Make sure to say the word "place" clearly each time.

In the beginning you will need to walk them right to the spot. Often manouvering your body around to get them onto it. You want them to feel that they have changed surface. There are no treats to lure with this behavior because you really need them to pay attention to where they are, not just what they are doing with their body. So the treats remain away until they are actually on their "place." At this point you will use your correct behavior word or sound; yes, okay or correct (more on this later) and then reward as quickly as possible.

As with anything; repetition is the key to learning this behavior quickly. Once you see that they are starting to get the idea; you want to start stopping short of the spot and expect them to continue on. It is important that you start distancing yourself from the spot quickly. The goal for this behavior is to be able to be in another room or far away from the spot and command "place." When you do start getting some distance you can toss your treat to them but only if you can keep it on the "place."

When you get a bit of distance, it is easy to add to it. When you know that your dog fully understands what "place" means you can add a stay to it, if your dog understands the stay command. If not then teach stay in general first; then add to the place command.

I'll never forget another of my lab clients as I walked through their front door on our final session. As the girls charged down the front stairs their guardian said "place," immediately they changed gears and headed to the front corner where their comfy bed lay awaiting them. They stayed there until I was through to the kitchen and they were then released, was I proud?

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