Next up in the series, Homeschooling Your Dog: Inquisitive Canine Edition, is teaching the cue “Go to Your Place.” This is referred to as a targeting exercise, where dogs learn to “target” (place) a body part -or even their whole bodies- on an object.
Since dogs can learn to offer this behavior in a variety of places and/or situations, it’s ideal for any time you’d like your friend to settle. Just imagine the applications!
A great object to use as a ‘place’ is a bathroom rug – washable with rubber backing. It’s portable and can be used on a variety of surfaces, plus it’s okay if it gets dirty. If you prefer, you can use a dog bed or crate instead. Any item chosen for this exercise should have an anti-slip bottom if placed on a slippery surface, so the dog doesn’t land on it and go sliding across the floor like a skater on an ice rink! Tip: Make your life a little easier by choosing something comfy, easy to transport and easy to clean.
Items you’ll need for this exercise:
- Mat, bed or crate
- Treats and/or your dog’s dry food
- Clicker (or “Magic Word”)
How to train “Go to Your Place”:
This exercise teaches your dog to go to a specific location and sit, stand or lie down.
- Stand about 3 feet away from the mat, bed or crate.
- Begin with a handful of bite-sized treats. Without saying anything, lure your dog onto the mat by holding the piece of food on your dog’s nose (like a magnet) and guiding them to the mat. As soon as he or she walks onto it, click and treat. Tip: Make sure his or her entire body is on the mat before clicking and treating.
- Prompt your dog off the mat with petting and praise or toss a treat a few feet away to reposition.
- Repeat this a few more times to keep him or her focused on the game.
- The next step is tossing the treat onto the mat while at the same time using a chosen hand signal to direct your dog back onto the mat.
- Repeat this over and over until your dog walks onto the mat on his or her own.
- Once your dog is reliably going to the mat when you toss the treat and give the hand signal, you can add the cue word/phrase. It will look like this:
- Say “Go to your mat”
- Toss the treat and give the hand signal
- As soon as your dog’s entire body is on the mat, click and treat
- Prompt Fido off the mat
- Begin the game again
- As your dog begins to put the phrase and action together, and can repeat it at least 5 times in a row, you can begin to fade out the food lure and hand signal, using only the verbal cue. Continue to give a click and treat for each successful attempt.
- To mix it up, you can also practice by eventually using the visual cue (hand signal) all on its own without the food lure or verbal cue. Here again, continue to click and treat for each successful attempt.
Practice at Home
As in previous exercises, the next step in making this skill practical and useful in day-to-day life is to teach your pup to generalize it. Practice in a variety of settings. Carry the mat with you and play this game in different areas of your house. With practice, you’ll be able to use the “Go to your Place” cue when someone comes to your door. Now your dog has something else to do incompatible with charging the door or jumping all over your guests! If you hit any snags in the training, don’t worry. When you get a chance, just review the training tips and/or contact your certified force-free dog trainer for some support and guidance.
Practice on the Go
With the “Go to Your Place” cue, whether you’re hanging out at home or away, your pup has learned a very handy skill that you’ll want to keep sharp with lots of fun practice and encouragement. Changing it up, depending on the scenario, can help keep you and your inquisitive canine motivated and engaged. When out and about, think, for instance, of some dog-friendly places this exercise would come in handy: while sitting at a local park, lakeside or beach, an outdoor restaurant, cafe, or brew pub, a friend’s house or yard. That’s when you and your best friend really reap the rewards of a portable ‘place’ – and the wonderful ability to generalize training concepts in new environments.
At home or on the go, we hope you and your inquisitive canine find going to your place a pawsitively reinforcing experience.