The doorbell rang. “Rosie, Place!” I called out. Four pounds of Yorkshire Terrier energy bolted across the home office, dashed into my open bedroom door, then pivoted around to face me. Her little nubby tail wagged furiously.
“Yes!” I marked, tossing a treat into the bedroom. Rosie ran to inhale it, then dashed back to assume her previous position just inside the doorway. From her position, she had a clear view of our front door.
I opened the front door, greeting a contractor who was coming to look at our air conditioning unit. I welcomed him inside and he exclaimed, “Oh she’s cute. Hi, sweetie!” Rosie stayed inside the bedroom doorway, looking at me expectantly.
I marked “Yes” again and tossed another treat to her. She gulped it down and looked at me again, toes just inside the bedroom. “Okay,” I said. She scurried out the door to greet the contractor, who was more than happy to meet her.
As a tiny dog, Rosie can be easy to overlook. By teaching her to go to a specific place (our bedroom) when guests arrive, we ensure she’s safe and out of the way. She is not likely to follow someone out the door or get tangled up when contractors or housecleaning staff bring in equipment.
What Is “Place?”
When I use “Place,” I mean for a dog to go to a specific spot, hold a specific position, and stay there until I tell them it’s okay to get up. I prefer the place to be well-defined, such as a bed, mat, or piece of furniture. For example, telling a dog to go to the middle of a tiled room would be harder for the dog, as all the tiles look alike. If there was a dog bed to the side of the room, however, it would be easier for the dog to differentiate that from the tiled floor.
My preferred position is a down, although it can be a sit or even a stand. I like the down position because it’s more settled and this is a stay exercise. If a dog is standing, it’s very easy for them to walk away.
When Do You Use It?
Place has a lot of applications. You can use it in my example, sending your dog to place while you greet guests at your door. This is especially nice for overly enthusiastic greeters, who tend to jump and happily maul your guests.
You can use Place at restaurants, bringing a mat with you for your dog to lie on while you enjoy your meal. If you don’t mind your pup on the furniture but want him to stay on a throw, you can use Place for this as well.
During veterinary visits, teaching dogs to go to Place can help to lessen their nervousness and aid in achieving a Fear Free visit. For example, they can go to Place on the scale to get their weight and they can settle on their familiar mat in the room until the team is ready to examine them.
How to Teach It
First, teach your dog the position you want, such as Down.
Next, get your place item. Do you want to use a mat? A dog bed? Bath mats are great as they are machine washable and skid resistant. Make sure the mat is big enough that your dog will fit comfortably in the position you’ve chosen.
Now, stand next to the mat. Call your dog’s name and point to the mat, then toss a treat on it. Right before he eats the treat, mark with a click or verbal marker, such as “Yes”). At this point it doesn’t matter if your dog is completely on the mat, we just want to make sure she’s comfortable getting on there. Give your release cue, “Okay,” and toss a treat off the mat. Repeat this a couple times until your dog is walking onto the mat completely.
Now, call your dog’s name. Point to the mat. When your dog is on the mat, cue “Down.” Mark and treat. Then release, “Okay!” and toss a treat off the mat. When your dog reliably goes to the mat and lies down, it’s time to add the final cue.
Call your dog’s name, then say “Place” and point. Once your dog is on the mat and lying down, mark and treat. Say “Okay” to release. Practice until your dog reliably goes onto the mat and lies down when she hears “Place.”
Cue Place. Mark and treat. Take one step away, return to her and mark and treat. Take two steps away, return to her and mark and treat. Always return to your dog to mark and treat. This will help her settle in place as she realizes you always come and give her the reward. Gradually increase the steps you walk away until eventually you can walk all around the room and she holds her position.
As with any other stay behavior, you’ll need to add distance, distractions, duration, and more. If you find your dog is struggling, consider enlisting a Fear Free certified trainer to help you. Once your dog knows the Place behavior, you’ll find you use it frequently!
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.
Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, is the vice president of A Dog’s Best Friend, located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A professional dog trainer for more than 23 years, she is the author of The Dog Behavior Problem Solver, Dog Fancy Ultimate Guide to Dog Training, Animal Planet Dogs 101 Dog Training, Puppy Care and Training, The Super Simple Guide to Housetraining, Quick & Easy Crate Training, and Your Outta Control Puppy. A popular conference speaker, she has given presentations to pet owners, humane organizations, and fellow trainers across the United States and internationally.
Want to stay in the loop on the latest and greatest in keeping your pet happy and healthy? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here!
Published April 3, 2023