Getting your dog to settle down in their bed or crate on cue can be like asking a high-energy toddler to sit quietly – an impossible task. But it’s incredibly convenient to send your dog to their bed whenever you need them out from underfoot. So, how do you teach your dog to relax and stay in their place until released? Read on to learn why the go to your place behavior is so useful and how to train your dog to happily do it.
Why Go to Your Place is So Useful
Imagine cooking dinner without your dog hovering around. Or enjoying time with visitors without being pestered for attention. The go to your place cue gives you uninterrupted dog-free time with the peace of mind of knowing exactly where your dog is and what they’re doing.
Sending your dog to their place is also a wonderful way to tackle problem behaviors like jumping on guests or begging at the table. Instead of trying to prevent your dog from doing these annoying behaviors, teach them to go to their place as an alternative response. For example, when the doorbell rings, ask your dog to go to their place. They can’t bother visitors if they are lying quietly in another room.
Although you can use a crate for this exercise, if you choose a portable bed or mat you can more easily use the behavior anywhere. Move the mat from room to room around your house or take it with you when you travel. Once your dog loves their special place, lying there can bring them comfort at a strange house or even at a vet appointment.
How to Help Your Dog Love Their Place
Your dog should love their crate, bed, or mat. If they look at it as a punishment, you’ll have a much harder time convincing them to stay there. Instead, persuade them that their place is a great spot to be by using positive training and high-value treats. You can also boost your dog’s love of their place by providing special items there. For example, if you’re going to give your dog a chew bone or new toy, present it on the bed or mat. These bonus rewards will convince your dog that this piece of cloth is worth their time and attention. In essence, make it your dog’s happy place.
How to Train Your Dog to Go to Their Place
Before you start training your dog to go to their place, be sure they already know how to lie down. They also need a release word like “free” or “release” that tells them they are free to leave the mat. Your dog should stay in their place until you give the release word.
You can train this behavior with shaping or luring. It’s also a great exercise for clicker training. The following steps will help you train your dog to go to their place:
- Show your dog the mat or bed and click and reward any attention toward it, such as sniffing or standing on it. Alternatively, you can lure your dog onto the mat with a treat. Then click and reward your dog when they put at least one paw on the mat. With either method, be sure to place the reward on the mat to build an association between the treat and the mat. As long as your dog is interacting with the mat, continue to click and treat.
- Continue to shape your dog’s behavior until they are placing all four paws on the mat. If you’re luring the behavior, make sure you lure your dog completely onto the mat. Again, click and reward your dog while they are on the mat. Now add your release word. Say the word then lure the dog off the mat perhaps by tossing a treat or toy. Don’t click or reward the release.
- Wait quietly to see if your dog returns to the mat. If they do, click and treat. If they don’t, repeat step two several more times then try again. Once your dog knows the mat is where you want them to be, you can move to step four.
- When your dog is on the mat, lure them into a down before you click and reward. Alternatively, you can ask them to lie down with a word or hand signal. Finally, if your dog is experienced with shaping, you can wait for them to offer a down. Again, release your dog after the reward.
- Begin to add duration to the behavior by waiting longer and longer before you click and treat. Remember to work on only one of the three Ds (distance, duration, and distraction) at a time.
- Once your dog is happily staying on the mat until they hear the release cue, you can start adding distance to the behavior. Send your dog to the mat from farther and farther away. And begin walking away while they are lying on the mat.
- Add distractions to the behavior.
- Finally, now that your dog understands the behavior no matter what the circumstance, you can add your cue such as “Bed,” “Mat,” or “Place.”
Most dogs will progress through these steps quickly. But if your dog is struggling, you’ve likely gone too far too fast. Move back a step and practice some more. And don’t forget to train in different rooms of the house to help your dog generalize the behavior. In no time, you’ll have a practical method of keeping your dog out of your way and your dog will have a special place to relax.