Trainer Tips: Teach your Dogs "Place"

Trainer Tips: Teach your Dogs "Place"

Now that you’ve acquired our Sleeping Bag (or you’re thinking about getting it), the “place” command is the perfect way to let your dog know that this Sleeping Bag is their very own place, no matter where it happens to be.

Judy Bardsley, who owns Happy Pup Training in Mount Vernon, Washington, is here to help you teach your dog “place.” Judy’s been using science-backed, positive reinforcement training methods to gently tame wilder dogs for two decades and she has a very long string of dog-training accreditations to her name.

“Place is one of the most useful behaviors we can teach our dogs,” Judy says.

Also called “go to your bed,” or simply “bed,” the “place” command cues your dog to go to an assigned spot, like their Sleeping Bag, and then lie down and stay there until you use your release cue, Judy explains. Not only will this command teach your dog to use their Sleeping Bag while camping, it’s handy for those times when you need your them to chill in a safe spot - think hitting the local brewery, lighting a campfire, long road trips, visiting a friend’s house, or just hanging on your front porch.

Here’s how to teach your dog “place:”

  1. Find a quiet room to minimize distractions & grab at least a ½ cup of extra-tiny (and tasty), soft training treats.
  2. Set your dog’s Sleeping Bag on the ground and sprinkle a few treats on it.
  3. The instant your dog sets foot on the Sleeping Bag, mark this behavior with a high-pitched “good!” and toss a treat onto the Bag. Keep repeating this as long as your dog stays there.
  4. When your dog looks at you, toss one treat away and say, “break!” That’s your release cue to let your dog know that it’s okay to leave the Sleeping Bag.
  5. Your dog will probably come back now. As soon as they place a paw on the Bag, say, “good!” and toss a treat down.
  6. Repeat these steps a few more times. As Judy explains, this is letting your dog know that the Sleeping Bag is a place where good things (treats) happen, and helping your dog get to know the “break” release cue.
  7. Now it’s time to add the “place” cue. As your dog heads back toward the Sleeping Bag, point to it and say, “place.” Try to say it just once. When your dog steps onto the Bag, mark and treat. Try this a few more times while standing in various places around the room.
  8. Next, ask your dog to lie down, or lure them into “down” with a treat. (You may want to have them sit before lying down.) “Mark and treat over and over, like it’s the best thing they ever did, as long as they’re in a ‘down,’” Judy says. Putting the treats on the ground in front of them helps to keep them lying down.
  9. Break and repeat a few more times and then put the Sleeping Bag away - that’s it for now!

This sounds like a lot, but it probably takes fewer than five minutes. “Training sessions for dogs should be short and sweet,” Judy says.

During your next training session, start with marking and offering your dog a treat as soon as they step onto the Sleeping Bag, and continue through the whole sequence several times. You’ll want to slowly start offering treats less frequently and cueing them from farther away, as well as moving around while they’re lying on their Sleeping Bag.

“There will be times at first when they don’t understand and get right up to follow you,” Judy explains. “We all make mistakes when we’re learning something new, right? Don’t correct them! Instead, cue ‘place’ again, wait for that ‘down,’ then make your movements a little easier for them to stay in place.”

With five to 10 short, fun sessions, Judy says that your dog will get the hang of “place.” Once they’ve mastered it in a quiet room, you can move the Sleeping Bag to a different spot in your house, then outside, and eventually, places with plenty of distractions. If your dog struggles along the way, take a step backward, then try again another day.

“The key really is to keep training fun and easy,” Judy says. “If you’re discouraged or frustrated your dog knows that and will associate that with whatever you’re training. Keep training sessions short, sweet and fun, and ‘place’ will become something you and your dog will love!”

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your Sleeping Bag and get started. Show us your progress by tagging @Wilderdog on Instagram!