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Go To Your Bed and Stay There

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

dachshund on dog bed

Smooth Miniature Dachshund, red merle color, resting comfortably on her bed.

"Place" or "Go place" or "Go to your bed" is one of the most powerful commands to teach your puppy. His Place  is a designated dog bed or blanket to which he should go when told.

When you want him to go there, you gesture toward the bed and say, "Jake, go place"  (or one of the other phrases above).

For this exercise, your pup should be at least 10 or 12 weeks old and should behave pretty nicely on a leash.

You might wonder if Place  could refer to his crate. It could. But when I want my dog to go into his crate, I say "Go crate."

I use, "Go place" or "Go to your bed" to refer to an open dog bed placed somewhere in the room.

You can even move his Place  from room to room. For example, if you're watching TV, put his bed there so he can hang out with you. When you head for your den to work on your computer, carry his bed to the den.

Or you can have different beds in different rooms.

Three reasons why "Place" is one of the most powerful commands to teach your puppy

  1.  Place  is calming. When your pup must hang out on his bed and not walk away from it, he learns patience and impulse control, two qualities that are essential for young, energetic, or excitable pups to learn. Place  becomes almost a meditative experience. The pup learns to relax his body and calm his mind even when the world keeps churning around him. He learns to ignore kids playing, the phone ringing, the vacuum cleaner, the mailman.

    For some dogs, behavior issues cease. Dogs with phobias, anxieties, and noise sensitivities dramatically improve when they're required to control themselves on their bed. It doesn't happen immediately. But in a comparatively short time, you'll see the difference.

  2.  Place  is practical. Instead of letting a young or mischievous dog loose in the house, free to practice bad habits, you can let him hang out with you in a safe space – his bed. Sure, you could put him in his crate or pen, but if he knows how to relax on his comfortable bed, he can stay right out in the open with you, wherever you are.
  3.  Place  shows your pup that you're in control. He learns that sometimes he needs to do something simply because you say so. He must stay there quietly, just watching the world go by, because you want him to.

Place is one of the easiest commands to teach.

K and H brand elevated platform bedFor most pups, the best kind of bed for teaching Place is an elevated bed. Either a hammock-style bed, like this one by K&H Products....

Petfusion dog bed....or a raised bed like this Petfusion® memory foam. I like an elevated bed because it's so obvious when the dog is ON it, and when he's not.

sheepskin bolstered bedOr you can use a flat bed with rounded bolsters around the edge to help define the bed. Very small pups often prefer it because it's right on the ground, so they don't need to hop up onto it.

To start teaching Place, position the bed in the middle of a room (rather than in a corner or against a wall) so you and your pup can easily walk around it. Or practice in your yard.

Of course he should be on leash. As you approach the bed together, say, "Place" or whichever word or phrase you're going to use. Everyone in your household should say the same thing.

Gesture toward the bed and use the leash to gently steer your puppy onto the bed. The moment all four feet are on the bed, say, "Yes!" or "Good!" and give him a treat while he's on the bed. Then say "Okay" and walk away with him. Repeat many times.

Your pup won't get on the bed?

This is uncommon with a young pup, but might be the case for some adolescent and older dogs.

If gentle guidance with the leash doesn't work and the pup fights mightily against getting on the bed, break the exercise into easy-to-master bits.

  • Spend some time just walking him over to the bed and dropping a treat on it. If he reaches onto the bed to eat it, say "Yes!" or "Good!" and hand him another treat. Then walk away, turn around, and come back for another pass.
  • Eventually maneuver him so that the bed is between the two of you and put a little pressure on the leash to encourage him to walk across the bed to your side. If he puts even one foot  onto the bed, say "Yes!" or "Good!" and treat.
  • After several successes with one foot, withhold your praise/treat until he puts both front feet  on the bed, and so on.

What should your puppy DO when he's on the bed?

At first, nothing. Simply walk him on, praise/treat, say "Okay", and walk him off.

When you think he's ready to stay longer, say "Yes or "Good" when he gets on the bed and give him the treat. But instead of saying "Okay" and walking away with him, just stand there.

gray SchnauzerIf he tries to step off the bed, use the leash to gently stop him. Then loosen it again. Check him gently with the leash, then loosen it, as many times as necessary until he shows understanding that he's supposed to stay there.

When you're first teaching this exercise, you should only ask your dog to stay on the bed for a few seconds. Then say, "Okay" and walk him off. He must wait for your "Okay" before stepping off.

Now it's just a matter of gradually increasing the time he needs to stay on the bed before you give him the release word.

Important: Your puppy doesn't need to lie down on the bed. He can if he wants to, but he can also sit or stand or move around. He simply can't get off the bed. No barking either.

Circle around the bed while your puppy stays on it.

Some pups try to step off the bed when you move. So the first few times you try it, raise the leash vertically above your pup's head with a bit of gentle tension to remind him to stay on.

I like to place my left hand, palm UP,  above the dog's head, then drape the leash across my palm between my thumb and index finger. Then I can just quickly raise my palm to check him with the leash if he tries to step off.

Stay close beside the bed as you circle it. It's fine if your pup moves around on  the bed as you move around  the bed. But he should not step off until you say "Okay."

Patience and persistence are the keys to this very important exercise. If YOU  don't give up, your pup will eventually sigh and stay on the bed. As far as leadership goes, you will have just taken a giant step forward in his eyes.

Add distractions.

Once your puppy will reliably  stay on the bed for up to a minute, add distractions to make his understanding even more solid:

  • Hum or sing or whistle.
  • Do a few knee bends or jumping jacks.
  • Have one of your kids trot through the room, bouncing a ball.

Remember: your puppy doesn't need to lie down on the bed. He can if he wants to, but he can also sit or stand or move around. He simply can't get off the bed. No barking either.

Don't TEASE the dog. Don't pat your thighs to encourage him to come to you. Don't speak to him or stare at him.

You're not trying to make him fail. You're trying to build up his confidence that he CAN stay on the bed.

As he gets more reliable, you can progress to sitting in a chair and reading a book. But keep an eye on him. You don't want him wandering around the room while you're engrossed in your book!

Eventually you'll be able to leave the room and return to find him still on his Place.  What a marvelous exercise in self-control!

How long can your puppy stay on his Place?

I don't start teaching Place  until a pup is 10 or 12 weeks old, and then I only have him stay on his bed for a minute or two. I push that up to 15-30 minutes for pups 3 to 6 months old. Pups over 6 months can stay on their bed for an hour.

red DobermanIf you're laughing out loud at the idea that your rambunctious 8-month-old pup could hang around on his bed for an hour.... then he is the perfect candidate for learning how.

Because any pup who feels secure and stress-free is perfectly able to relax for an hour or two on a comfy bed in a comfy house with his trusted leader close by. If your dog "can't", that's powerful evidence that he is feeling too anxious to be truly secure and stress-free.

When you teach him how to relax and be calm, his stress levels will go way down and his contentment levels will go way up. Place  is the perfect lesson to make that happen.

cartoon dog sleeping on his backIn fact, it's often easier  for a dog to stay on his bed for an hour than to stay for just a few minutes.

You see, if he learns that he only needs to wait 20 seconds and then you'll let him up, he'll be tensed up the whole time. He'll stare at you, shift restlessly, and tighten his muscles whenever you look in his direction. He's waiting for the slightest sign that he can explode off his bed and be free, free, free!

Not very calming or meditative, is it?

dog snoringHowever, over an hour, most pups relax and go to sleep.

But let's say your pup doesn't go to sleep, at least not right away.

What if he stares at you?

Don't make eye contact. Most dogs interpret eye contact as an invitation to interact. In fact, your pup may try hard to make eye contact with you so he can assume his most charming/pathetic expression that will persuade you to stop this nonsense and play with him instead. Just ignore it.

What if he inches farther and farther off the bed?

This is a judgement call on your part.

He might start by hanging his front paws off the edge. "There," he reassures you, "that didn't hurt anything, did it? After all, most of me is still on the bed!"

Then he's stretching one paw until it touches the floor. "Ooh, it feels good to stretch. How about another inch? How about two inches..."

You can see where this is headed, right? This is why I prefer elevated beds for teaching Place,   because it's easier to see when the dog has come so far off the bed that he's touching the floor. With other beds, it's more of a judgment call as to when he is on  versus off.

In any case, be generous but when he truly seems off to you, use the leash to scoot him back on. And if you have to do this, be sure not to give him any treats as you do! You don't want him to learn this pattern: leave bed → get put back on bed → get a treat! Puppies will quickly learn the worst patterns.

What if he tries to chew on the bed (or the leash)? What if he whines or barks?

"No. AH-ah." Follow up with a corrective technique. It's all covered in my training books, so pick whichever technique works for your particular pup.

What if he rolls on his back with all four feet in the air?

dog snoring on backHa-ha! That's fine. All he has to do is stay on the bed, quietly and peacefully. That looks pretty quiet/peaceful to me!

Remember: your pup doesn't need to lie down on the bed. He can if he wants to, but he can also sit or stand or move around. He simply can't get off the bed. No barking either.

Releasing your pup from his Place

Only use Place  when you're sure you will remember  to keep a close eye on your puppy. If you get called away for anything important, first release your pup with "Okay" and get him off the bed before you go answer it.

Otherwise, when he's first learning this exercise, he'll probably walk off the bed while you're busy elsewhere. That's not good for your leader-follower relationship. Once you've put him on his Place,  he needs to wait for YOU to release him.

belgian sheepdog pup, groenendael variety

Using Place to "sound-proof" your puppy

Once a puppy shows that he fully understands his responsibility to stay on the bed for an extended period of time, I add sound effects.

Every pup should be able to relax even when he hears fireworks, thunderstorms, other dogs barking, a baby crying, kids squealing and playing, a vacuum cleaner, construction equipment, traffic sounds, and emergency vehicle sirens.

Sadly, some pups are hyper-sensitive and hyper-reactive to harmless sounds. Some breeds tend to be more sound sensitive than others, so clearly there is a genetic component.

But more commonly, sound sensitivity is caused by owners who respond improperly when the pup acts worried or nervous. Typically, owners respond by trying to reassure the puppy with soothing words and petting.

Unfortunately, that's the worst thing to do. A soothing voice and petting are interpreted by dogs as positive reinforcement  of whatever behavior they're exhibiting at the time. If you reward nervous behavior, you're going to see more  nervous behavior. Not less.

Owners who soothe and pet and cuddle a worried dog aren't helping the dog, but are (unintentionally) making things worse.

I recommend using Place  to prevent sound sensitivity from developing in your dog. Or if you already have a pup with this problem, you can use Place  to help the pup overcome it.

large white dogGet hold of a sound effects CD such as Calm Pet: Desensitizing Sounds  or Sounds for Hounds.  Or find free sound effects on YouTube. Try to include all the sounds I mentioned earlier.

Play these sounds for 10-15 minutes a day while your puppy is on his Place. If the pup ignores the sounds, walk over a couple of times and give him a treat. This helps him associate hearing and ignoring sounds  with rewards.

The first week the volume should be so low as to be barely audible. The following week, increase the volume a bit. Keep creeping it up, over time, until it's about the level the pup would hear it in your neighborhood.

Teaching coping skills to fearful dogs

If Puppy acts fearful (cowering or shaking) but stays on the bed, reduce the volume for a few days. Other than that, ignore  the fearfulness. Don't speak to him, look at him, or give any treats while he's looking or acting fearful.

Whether fearful or not, if he gets off his bed, say, "No" or "AH-ah", give the leash a mild corrective tug, and lead him back on.

If he keeps getting off and running into another room, move the bed near a heavy piece of furniture to which you can attach the leash. Make it very short so he can't get far off the bed. Of course you will be right there in the room with him and can quickly usher him back onto his bed.

What you're doing is removing his opportunities to practice poor coping skills – running, hiding, pacing, or coming to you for frantic cuddling. Allowing him to choose any of those options only makes the situation grow progressively worse.

black shepherd

When you remove those bad options by requiring him to stay on the bed, he might still cower and shake for quite some time. But as he focuses more on his responsibility to stay on the bed and less on the becoming-more-familiar sounds, he will work through his nervousness and develop much better coping skills.

Yes, we're stressing the pup. But imagine the stress he would experience throughout his life whenever something frightened him and he had no coping skills other than running away.

We don't help our dogs by avoiding all stress in their lives. We help them by exposing them to stress in a safe, controlled environment and teaching them to cope calmly with it. Dogs with "issues" can't grow or change unless they're nudged out of their comfort zone. Working through something they didn't think they could do builds confidence and is satisfying and empowering to dogs. To us, too.

My book covertraining program is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. It explains, step by step:

  • How to establish good patterns and routines that govern everything your pup does.
  • How to teach your pup to be calm and to look to you for guidance, direction, and permission.
  • How to make yourself important – the most important thing – in your puppy’s life. How to show your pup the clear, black-and-white rules and routines he is to follow. And how to make sure he does.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

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If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
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