The Value of a Place Cue:
By Aly Straw
One of the most valuable training skills I believe you can teach your dog is a “place” cue because it has a wide variety of uses in and out of the home. This cue teaches your dog to go to a designated spot when asked, and to stay there until they are released. Not only is this skill practical, it also teaches your dog how to settle without always having to resort to confinement (such as kenneling) in addition to providing mental enrichment as the dog focusses on listening for their release cue. When we teach this cue in our Leadership and Obedience class, we instruct students to apply the “place” cue to multiple objects- a dog bed, a portable mat, a couch (if they’re allowed on furniture). By doing this the dog learns to generalize that “place” means they go wherever their handler pointed and settle there; which makes it very handy outside of the home. You can bring a mat with you and apply this skill anywhere; which can take a lot of pressure off of constantly having to keep track of your dog (and prevent them from table surfing at a dog friendly cafe or a friend’s house).
For all of the uses we can make outside of the home, “place” cue’s value in the home should not be overlooked! It provides a way to build door manners, dinner manners, and kitchen manners. You can make a habit of asking for “place” and rewarding when the family gathers for meals, when you’re in the kitchen making a meal, and when the doorbell rings/guests arrive. One application I’ve found particularly valuable is using it while integrating new dogs into the same household. You can have a dog performing this skill while the other dog roams the house. It can teach both dogs to settle outside of the kennel, while also giving a new dog time to explore without the pressure of the resident dog hovering over them.
There are a few things that can help build a solid “place” with your dog. Make sure you start small! Do this in short bursts with low distraction; then, you can build up to longer durations and higher levels of distraction. By starting small, you can proof the skill and almost make it reflexive. You should also always make sure to release your dog when you are ready to let them do what they want. If you allow them to release themselves, it can become more challenging to keep them maintaining this cue for longer durations with more distractions. When you always apply a release cue (free, break, release, etc…) your dog learns to wait for it because they know you will always tell them when they can get up. I also recommend not to leave your dog in place for consistently long periods of time as it can make them aversive to the cue, and runs the risk of creating neurotic behavior.