Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dogs Love Their "Place"

Teaching your dog a "Place" cue - in which your dog goes to its mat and lies quietly until released - has many benefits for dog and human alike.

For the dog, it involves increasing impulse control, teaches a dog to relax in one spot no matter what else is going on around him, and it can become a favorite spot that he chooses to go to when he wants to rest or play with a favorite toy.

For the people, it can come in handy in many situations. If you have a ton of groceries sitting about and want to put them away without Fido being in your way, you can ask him to lie quietly on his mat in the kitchen. If you want peace and quiet in the kitchen while eating, it is handy to have a "Place" cue so that Fido knows exactly what is expected of him. When you have company over, sometimes that company isn't as fond of dogs as you are, but yet you want him to be part of the social scene - well, then he can lay on his mat with you in the same room but keep the peace with your company (although if you are like me, most company knows this is the "dog zone" and the majority of visitors to the home also tend to be dog lovers!!). You can teach Fido that he gets special treats only in the bed and know he will stay in it instead of dragging food all over the house. And besides, it can be just plain fun!

It's great too, because you can also take a mat with you (you can get really neat thin material that you can fold up quite small) and use it in parks, at dog shows, if you are the company at somebody else's house and want to bring Fido along, or if you have to stay in a hotel room and don't want to drag the kennel inside.

Dogs who experience behaviour issues, such as fear, aggression, or just have downright poor door greeting manners, really thrive when they can follow a "place" cue and know what is expected of them. It takes the weight off the dogs' shoulders to try to make decisions (that generally end up being poor ones when they do make them), and to know that we humans have it covered. It can also be a way for more nervous dogs to see people from a safe distance and get rewarded for appropriate behaviour, without being forced to greet people at the door.

Teaching dogs a "Place" cue really does have an endless amount of benefits and will make life a lot easier, and simpler, for the Dogparents. And if you take the time to make it fun, dogs really come to love "knowing their place"!!

Below is a video of Zipper learning to go to his mat and lie down until released. It follows from the first steps right through to completion and performing the behaviour with his housemates. He is still "new" to the process of shaping in clicker training (a process in which you reward successive approximations - small bits - at a time until you end up with the desired behaviour - most of the steps are outlined in the video), so he looks to me for the next step a lot, but I let him work it out so he learns to try things out on his own.

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