What is the Place command?
The Place command teaches dogs how to relax in a specific spot.”Place” can be a dog cot, a bed, a rug, a chair – you decide – and you can change where & what the “place” is that you want your dog to relax. It is helpful initially to choose a location with distinct edges. Using a raised cot makes it easier to teach the dog to remain within the boundaries of this designated location, and it’s comfy so the dog will want to hang out there to rest.
The many Benefits of the Place command for dogs
Whether your dog is demanding & pushy, or shy & nervous, or anywhere in between – the Place command is a game changer.
Daily practice of Place work is extremely beneficial for dogs to learn to relax and it’s a key part of teaching a dog to be calm on command. With a little practice every day, your dog can become a zen master! This is super handy when you have guests visiting, or have household tasks to do.
We initially teach the Place command and then pair it with the Down command, so dogs learn to associate Place with laying down. Where the body goes the mind will follow. Since laying down is naturally a relaxing position that is related to taking a snooze, your dog will begin to calm down more readily in this position. Gradually your dog will be chilling out on Place for longer periods of time, (from an hour to several hours at a time) and as long as they stay on Place, they are free to stand, sit, or lay down comfortably. If they step off of Place, we simply say “no” in a calm tone of voice and lead them back into Place.
When a dog is new at this exercise, we begin with a leash and with very short duration and few distractions, while remaining close (distance) to the dog. With practice each of these 3 D’s are gradually increased until the dog is a pro at remaining on Place without constant supervision.
If your dog hasn’t mastered this skill yet and you need to come & go from the room, you can use a tie-back to tether your dog to something solid. This is to prevent the dog from getting too far or into mischief if they do step off while you’re not looking. However, never leave your dog unattended while tethered for more than a few minutes when you are home, and definitely don’t leave home with your dog still tied. It is illegal to tether a dog in Ontario for more than an hour in any situation. Besides that, the whole exercise is about teaching your dog to master their impulse control. The dog should not be spending any length of time with tension on a leash with them struggling to escape. Instead the dog is holding themselves on Place with their own will power. That is the magic of the exercise. The dog remains in place of their own accord. This is hard work at first. Dogs love to have a job to do and Place work is a fantastic job for dogs.
Transforming dogs with stress/excitement related issues
The Place command is an essential skill that every dog should master. Every noise, smell, or movement is not something a dog needs to be reacting to. No matter what exciting distractions are happening in the house, or outside the window, a dog can learn to chill out, because those things are not their concern. We show our dogs that we have everything under control so they don’t have to worry about that stuff.
This is how we create calm dogs that are not constantly in motion, persistently pestering people, or stressing themselves out with things they cannot control. Running and jumping around the home is not normal dog behaviour. Once your dog has mastered the Place command, you will be able to get things done around your home, such as vacuuming or other cleaning, laundry, cooking, eating, exercising, homework, projects, etc. If you want to stop a dog from getting underfoot and stressing out, the Place command is life-changing.
A dog cannot be barking, destroying things, pestering people, chasing the cat, or any other unwanted behaviour while they are resting calmly in place. Impulse control is a big part of growing up for all of us. Although many dog owners don’t realize it, training CALMNESS is the key ingredient missing in their dog’s lives.
Place work is ideal to rehab dogs with separation anxiety
Dogs need leadership and guidance to help them be really clear about what to do and where they should be. This is especially important for anxious and overly reactive dogs, but it’s helpful for everyone. It’s our responsibility to help dogs get it right. When they have been given clear information they can make the right decisions, then we get to praise and reward them and they can relax. The Place command is a key element of avoiding or eliminating separation anxiety, since Place teaches dogs that it’s okay to be away from you. The dog’s new job is to stay put and relax, rather than stressing out and following their human around like a shadow.
Interpreting emotion – Is your dog actually happy or just stressed?
Most people see an over-excited dog and say something like, “Look how happy that dog is!” However, excitement in dogs is more often an expression of stress and anxiety rather than joy & happiness. On the flip side, people may see a calm dog and wonder why the dog looks so sad when the dog is actually peacefully relaxing.
It is not healthy or natural to remain in an adrenalized state all of the time. There is a time for exuberant frolicking, rambunctious play and enthusiastic exercise. And then there is the normal state of calmness when nothing much is happening. For much of the time, nothing much is happening, so our dogs are not helped by remaining in a high-energy state during most of the day. The Place command is an essential tool to teach dogs how to meditate, remain peaceful and simply chill out.
Dogs who live in a happy, mentally relaxed space get to be included more in our everyday lives.