How to Create Productive Spaces for You and Your Dog, Part 2

Brought you to by Charley Perkins and Romi  

In the last post we talked about dog crates, and how Romi and I have used them in our home to help lay the groundwork of establishing physical and mental boundaries that will make our time more productive. For some dogs, the defined space of a crate may be all that is necessary to create boundaries you both need. Personally, I like Romi out and nearby while I am working, but I also know that I can’t have her running around the house or distracting me when I need to concentrate. That’s where “place” training comes in.

Place training is simply teaching your dog to stay in a dedicated spot without being restrained in any way for an indefinite amount of time. The beauty of place training is that it builds right on top of the foundation laid with crate training. It also creates a “safe zone” for your dog, where they know they can be calm and comfortable. This is good for everyone, and it enables your dog to be more integrated into your life.

But how do you transition your dog from understanding the crate to understanding “place”? The key is to take small steps. . . .

Once your dog can stay happy and calm in the crate for a period of time, start to focus on how your dog exits the crate. When you first open the crate door, your dog will likely try to push out, but don’t let them; firmly but gently, push your dog’s head back in. Keep doing this until your dog stops trying to get out. Then, using a tap on the head, your dog’s name, or a word like “ok”, give your dog permission to leave. This idea of a “release” is important in all future training. Be consistent with this.

Next, start leaving the crate door open when your dog is in there. Use your crate command to get them to enter their crate, but this time don’t close the door. If your dog tries to leave, don’t let them. Push them back into the crate–keeping the door open–and only let them leave with the release command. Reinforce with praise, treats, and a calm voice and tone, reminding your dog that even though the door is open, the crate is where they should be. Practice this, reinforcing with praise and treats, and try leaving the door open for longer and longer periods of time. These drills will reinforce the boundaries of the crate, and the idea that your dog should stay put until you release them.

Before we take the next step and teach place, I think it’s important to note that every person, every dog, and every home will require different boundaries. As noted, some people will be happy using just a crate as a space for their dog, while others may want to use indoor gates or fences to establish boundaries in the house, while others may welcome their dog anywhere. In our case, we like to use portable places (such as dog beds and throws) that Romi can identify anywhere.  This makes it easier for her to identify her safe zone, especially when we travel. 

Because she understands “place,” Romi can stay safely on her platform while duck hunting.

As you set up to train ‘place’, I recommend you start by picking one ‘place’, a single throw blanket or bed. I like to train ‘place’ by using a dog bed because it helps present a clearly defined “place”. A bed is a good target because  it feels different, looks different, smells different than the space around it.  Begin to train ‘place’ just like you did with the crate. Put your dog on a leash, lead them onto the defined ‘place’, and then praise/treat. Make sure your dog is entirely on/in the boundaries of the target before rewarding them. If your dog tries to leave, give the place command again and use the leash to guide them right back onto the ‘place’. Again, praise/treat (quicker the better). Be calm and clear in your voice and your attitude. Once it is time to have your dog leave the ‘place’, use your release command and lead them off the ‘place’. This step will help reinforce the idea that just like in crate training, your dog is not allowed to leave the ‘place’ until told to do so. This consistency is key to establishing the boundary.

As you set up to train place, I recommend you start by picking one place, a single throw blanket or dog bed. I like to train place by using a dog bed because it helps present a clearly defined place. A bed is a good target because it feels different, looks different, and smells different than the space around it. Begin to train place just like you did with the crate. Put your dog on a leash, lead them onto the defined place, and then praise or offer a treat. Make sure your dog is entirely on/in the boundaries of the target before rewarding them. If your dog tries to leave, use the leash to guide them back onto the place again, and offer praise or a treat. Be calm and clear in your voice and your attitude. Once it is time to have your dog leave the place, use your release command and lead them off the place. This step will help reinforce the idea that, just like in crate training, your dog is not allowed to leave the place until told to do so. This consistency is key to establishing the boundary.

Next you will want to “label” the behavior. Lead your dog onto the place, and say “place” once your dog is fully on target. Praise and treat. Give your release command, and then lead your dog off the place. Repeat, repeat, repeat. With time, you can add some additional skills and difficulty. Try the following:

  • Drop the leash, and let your dog place with verbal commands only.
  • Lengthen the amount of time you ask your dog to stay on their place. 
  • Increase the distance your dog has to travel to reach their place after the command is given.
  • Add hand gestures or point at the place as a command. 
  • Adding multiple spaces and practice pointing to indicate which location. (see video above).

Throw blankets on the couches to let Romi know those are safe-zones.

Just remember that the more difficulty you add, the easier it is for your dog to fail, and the less your dog fails, the faster it will progress. Baby steps.

With practice, your dog will understand “place” as a defined, comfortable spot to be. The boundaries of place will be real to them, and the boundaries that are created will help you and your dog be productive in your home and beyond. 

If Romi and I can do this, so can you!  Remember: keep it fun. In the end, all of these tips should be a welcome break to your day, as well as an exciting chance to spend time with your dog in a way that allows you both to be happy and productive.

Some good news… did you see this headline?

Kennels empty at Florida animal shelter after every dog adopted.

That really brightened my day and made me think that we might have some more dog trainers joining us for tips next week! Until then, be well, have fun, be safe, and thank essential workers. Oh yeah, as I mentioned in my first post, social distancing can be a bit lonely, so please stay connected by leaving comments here or find me on Instagram (@cperks21).

Click here for previous posts in this series:

1. New Series: How to Best Work Alongside Your Dog
2. How to Create Productive Spaces for You and Your Dog, Part 1

Products to Help Create Productive Spaces

Dog Crates

Dog Beds

Throws and Dog Blankets

Leashes and Collars

Indoor Gates and Fences

Dog Treats

(Romi and I like smaller sized training treats so you can train with more reps without over feeding.)

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