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Cocker spaniel learning place command

The essentials

  • Place training can help ease stress — By giving them the “place” cue, they’ll settle down, and you’ll know exactly where they are.
  • Their place can comfort them — After they’re familiar with the command, they’ll find comfort even in unfamiliar places.
  • It teaches them to be calm — Place training gives your dog a job to do instead of engaging in behaviors like barking, rushing, or jumping.

Does your dog beg, jump, bark, or rush the door? Teaching your dog place training can help with these behaviors. This training technique tells your dog to go to their “place” — whether it’s their bed, their crate, a mat, or a blanket — and tells them to stay in their spot until they’re released.

The “place” command can be helpful in almost any situation. Once they know it, you can bring it and use it while you’re away from home, in the car, while traveling, or hiking. Here’s what pet owners need to know about the importance of place training.

What is the “place” command and when you should use it

The “place” command helps teach your dog to settle down and go to their special spot every time you use it. This command helps teach dogs self-control, managing their behavior, and teaching them to relax or calm down when told.

It helps establish boundaries and associate the command with an area where they should stay until released. By consistently using the command, they learn to associate their spot with calmness and safety, translating to a comfortable space for them.

Here are some examples of when the place command is particularly useful:

  • When you have company. Often, dogs can get overexcited when people come to your home. It can be stressful for the dog and everyone involved. Telling them “place” or “go to your place” can help them remain calm while guests enter and settle in.
  • When the doorbell rings. Just the sound of the doorbell can cause excitement and anxiety in dogs and their humans. Using the “place” command allows you to redirect your dog’s attention, preventing unwanted behaviors like barking and rushing.
  • When you’re in the car. Car rides can often lead to panting, pacing, whining, and barking. Dogs may become restless or anxious. However, teaching your dog place training can help them learn to calm down in the car when they hear “place.”
  • If your dog is begging. If your dog is constantly scouring for food at the table or when you’re preparing meals, giving them the “place” command shifts their focus away from begging. This can help prevent unwanted lingering since they know they need to stay there until they’re released.
  • If you’ve spilled or broken something. Accidents happen, and your dog will likely come running at the sound. The last thing you need is your dog hurting themselves or making themselves sick from eating something that dropped. Telling them “place” keeps them safe and out of the way while the situation is taken care of.
  • During hiking or camping. There may be many times when you’re away from home, out on a walk, hiking, or camping. Using the place command to make sure your dog isn’t reactive, or when they’re off-leash, or if there’s wildlife, can be a lifesaver.
Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy dogs lying down on outdoor bed

Tools for teaching your dog the “place” command

Teaching your dog “place” can be done at home without anything fancy. You’ll need some treats, a leash, and whatever you’ll use for their place, such as something lightweight and portable, like a rug, bed, or cot. You can also teach them that “place” can be in multiple places by moving their “place mat” from room to room or bringing it with you when you’re away from home.

Training your dog the “place” cue in 6 steps

Place training includes a few different steps for it to be successful. When teaching your dog this command, make sure to do so only in short sessions (usually 10 minutes). Your dog needs lots of breaks so they stay focused and engaged. Give praise to keep it a positive and fun experience.

  1. Get them to come to their “place” with a treat. Make sure to start training indoors and without distractions and lead them to their “place mat.” Place the treat on their place mat to show them a positive association between the two (you can also use a clicker in conjunction with treats). The goal is to get them to interact with it, get a paw on there, and see that it’s a good thing.

Alternatively, some pet owners may find it easier to shape the command. This would mean clicking and rewarding your dog for interacting with the mat on their own and when you catch them doing the behavior you want to train.

Dr. Liza Cahn, DVM
  1. Continue until they have all four paws on the place mat. Keep doing this to make sure they eventually get fully on the mat. Give them a treat while they have all four paws on the mat to reinforce the positive association. Now, say your release word, such as “free.” Get your dog to come off the mat by leading them with a leash or throwing a treat far enough away to get them off.
  2. Try the “place” command. After your dog seems to have this down pretty well, try adding it to the “place” command. This may take a while, depending on your dog. Say the “place” command and lead your dog to their place mat, giving them a treat and positive language once they’re on. Use your release command and repeat it a few times.
  3. Add in the “down” command. If your dog seems to have these down pretty well, you can add in the “down” command. If they already know how to lay down on command, then this is an easy addition. If they don’t, you can start by lowering a treat down and saying “down” or catch them already in a down and reward them. This may take longer, but your goal is to get your dog to go to their place and lie down.
  4. Increase the duration and distance. After they start to get the hang of this, you’ll want to wait longer before releasing and giving treats. What may have started as one second may now be 5 seconds, 15 seconds, or longer. Do the same for distance, with both how far your dog is away from their “place” and how far you go while they are on their “place mat.”
  5. Add distractions. Try going out of sight, making noise, or having someone knock on the door. For some dogs, adding distractions may be a lot harder. Try this for at least 15 days, and stay patient. If your dog seems to have too hard a time with this, it may be necessary to go back to step 5.
Place training dog

Helping your dog love their place

You want your dog to love their place and think of it as a safe space. If it’s associated with anything negative, like punishment, they probably won’t want to stay there and may continually get up. Use positive reinforcement and lots of high-value treats. Give them some chew bones or toys on their “place mat” so they associate it with something good, and so they learn that this is their special place.

Tips for helping your dog learn the “place” cue

This may be a no-brainer for some dogs. Others who aren’t used to commands may find it more difficult. If your dog is struggling, there’s a good chance too much was introduced too quickly.

Go back a few steps and do some more practice. Be patient and stay calm. Try different rooms using different “place mats” in each to help your dog get used to the command and what it means. Make sure to keep it fun and light so your dog wants to go to their “place.”

Place training is invaluable for pet owners. Whether you’re at home or traveling, it can help manage your dog’s behavior and reaction to certain things, keeping them calm. Using the “place” command with your dog can help make everyday things less stressful. It gives your dog a job to do and a safe place to be, alleviating tension and making situations less overwhelming.

Frequently asked questions

How do you teach place training?

You’ll want to use a treat and a “place mat” where they’ll lie down. Say their name and “place” and lure them onto their mat. Get them to lie down, and then use your “release” word. This may take a while since it involves multiple steps and commands. Be patient and practice.

What is the point of place training a puppy?

Place training helps prevent your dog from unfavorable behaviors like begging, jumping, and barking. This allows you to answer the door, cook dinner, or get a package without your dog doing something they shouldn’t be. You’ll also know where they are, not roaming about and getting into trouble.

What is place board training?

A place board is used to train sporting dogs. It’s a raised platform covered with carpet or grass. Place board training helps shape the behavior of where you want a dog to be. They’re given a “place board” and a treat when they get to their “place.”  This tells them to stay there until they’re released.

What happens if you don’t train a puppy?

Puppies and dogs can develop behavioral issues if untrained. For puppies, this can lead to a large, uncontrollable dog with bad behaviors that are much harder to correct. By teaching your puppy place training early on, you can help them become a better-behaved dog and alleviate stress.

Should you use a special mat or regular dog bed with place training?

You can use a dog bed, a special mat, or a rug that you can move around. This allows you to take it with you wherever you go.