One of the most useful things you can teach your Weimaraner is the “place” command. Some of you probably already have this command — you just know it as a “kennel” or a “go to your bed” command. In the broadest sense, it is simply a command that requires that your dog go to a specific location and stay there until released.
The implications of this at the holidays are obvious. Aunt Hilda and her cat show up unannounced knocking at the door and you can send Gunnar to his “place” before he gets into serious trouble. All the young cousins leave a Thanksgiving feeding frenzy on the floor, and you don’t have to worry about Heidi’s table manners because you have her securely in her “place” ten feet away. All of the grandmoms and great-aunts shuffle around trying to help with dishes and you don’t have to worry about Duke knocking any of them over diving for the drippings because he, too, is safely in his “place” in the corner. Drooling, perhaps, but being a good boy.
There are lots of ways to teach this command. I think the easiest one is to shape it. (Shaping is a series of small training steps that build on each other using the dog’s ability to learn until you have the full behavior.) But you can also put your dog in his “place” and reward him for being there. This often works better for older dogs or dogs who haven’t done much training and aren’t used to problem solving.
Some people may find that it works better to have your dog learn to “place” on a raised surface where they can clearly differentiate between being in the right place and the wrong place. Different surfaces (fuzzy rug vs hardwood floor) also helps.
If your dog is clicker trained — great! If not, you can mark the correct behavior by a “yes!” or “good!” in a happy voice.
We have three things that your dog needs to learn:
- Go to your place.
- Lie down in your place (which might be two exercises in itself —- sit, then down).
- Stay in your place.
Grab your bag of high-value, yummy treats (now is the time for freeze dried liver, chicken, hotdogs, and cheese!) and put your mat/place down for your dog.
- If your dog shows any interest in the mat, mark (click or “yes!”) the behavior and toss him a treat ONTO the mat. Interest may be sniffing, stepping on it, sitting on it, or even looking at it for those wary types.
- Sit back and wait. If your dog’s interest wanes, toss a treat onto the mat and click/mark the behavior as soon as his foot touches the mat. You can lure your dog onto the mat if necessary, but letting him figure it out is the best.
- Do a couple reps/sessions of this. Begin by rewarding one foot on the mat, then only mark/treat two feet on the mat, then only mark/treat all four feet on the mat. Some dogs may figure the game out in a day, others may take a week or more depending on their age, training level, and how aware they are of their body. You have a Weim, so we know your dog is smart!
- Once your dog is getting all of their feet on the mat, either call them or lure them off the mat, so you can make sure that they understand that the action of moving back to the mat is what is being rewarded. Some dogs will catch on and try to beat you to the punch and they just won’t get off the mat! If your dog has a release word (“I grab my dog by the collar and say “lets go”) you can use that.
- Once your dog is reliably running to the mat, try moving the mat around the room.
- When your dog understands that it is the mat he is supposed to go to, you can now give him a “sit” or “down” command before giving him a treat. Once he is reliably going to his mat and lying down you can NOW add your “place” command.
Now you need to work on duration. Previously, the click/treat ended the behavior and the dog could leave. Now, you need to turn into a human food dispenser (maybe feed your dog his entire dinner this way) to show your dog that he needs to stay put.
- Give your dog his “place” command, click/mark the behavior, and toss him a treat. And toss him another treat. Keep tossing him treats. Rapid-sequence at first, then with longer intervals in between. Each time tell him “good place.” If he moves, you can say “wrong” or say nothing and put him back. As long as he is in his place, keep tossing him cookies.
- Make him “place” and lie down for longer and longer periods before he gets a treat.
- Move the mat around and repeat. Remember each time you move the mat, you’ll likely need to take a step backwards, increasing frequency of treating.
- Even when your dog really gets good at his “place” command, give him treats from time to time to make sure that the behavior “sticks.” If we don’t occasionally get rewarded, we would never keep doing something!
There are so many reasons to teach the place command, but mostly, it keeps your Weim out of trouble!