Place Command | The Most Valuable Dog Training Tool

The Place Command

Second, only to a really solid recall, the Place command is one of the most valuable things you can teach your dog.

A place command, in case you aren’t aware, teaches the dog to place his body (all four paws) on (or in) the object you designate. The dog has free choice as to how they wish to position themselves. They can sit, lie down, or stand plus are allowed to change position if they desire. The only hard and fast rule are that they keep four paws remaining in or on that area.

Why is Place Such an Awesome Thing to Teach?

It is awesome because of the versatility. There is so many day to day applications of this dog training skill that make life more enjoyable and easier to manage.

Let me illustrate some examples of the versatility of place training by sharing a few personal photos of my dogs.

One of the common uses for the place command is an opportunity to enjoy a meal without having the dogs underfoot. On a recent camping trip, we laid out a small blanket (an Insect Shield Blanket which keeps the bugs from bothering the dogs!)
The dogs remained there until we gave them permission to get up after we had finished our lunch. It made eating stress-free with no begging or having to manage keeping them out of other mischief.

place command car

When traveling, my dogs understand that “in the car” is the equivalent place command that allows them free range of movement in the vehicle BUT they should not jump out when I open a door or put down the tailgate. Not only do they load up willingly when told, they understanding they need to keep all paws in the car. This keeps them safe because they won’t jump out until they hear the permission cue that allows them freedom to go.

Sometimes we even have a place within a place. An example of this is having a designated area inside the car to keep the dog from roaming freely from seat to seat. My Duck Toller, Diva, decided to settle in for a nap after I told her to place in one of the seats of our RV.

When you are teaching a concept like this it is important to remain aware that you did give your dog a command. If Diva had jumped out of the seat it would be my responsibility to have her get back up there immediately. If we don’t notice our dog’s mistake within a few seconds of them breaking the command, the timing (and thus the meaning) of the lesson will be lost.

place command nap

There are also occasional uses where you might find the Place command to be of significant value.

When visiting the veterinarian, “Place” can be very handy in getting the dog to willingly step onto the scale to get their weight. I wasn’t mindful of getting a photo on our last visit to the vet, but I did grab a good picture on a recent outing after I had asked my dog to hop into a kayak.

She balked at first but once I pointed into the bow and asked her to Place she obediently hopped right in and we were soon off and enjoying some time on the water!

place command kayak

The uses are limitless, but before you begin to generalize the place concept to all these varying uses, remember to start simple with a raised platform that is stable and easy for your dog to learn on.

We use dog cots when we start because they are the perfect teaching tool, plus extremely durable and provide years of service as a comfortable dog bed.

If you’ve found some unique uses for your dog’s place command, I’d love to hear about it! Please share here in the comments section or on my Facebook page

Just Right! Remote Collar Dog Training Guide Two-Volume DVD Set

Your Own Personal Remote Collar Dog Training Guide

If you are looking for a remote collar dog training guide to help start the training process with your dog, here are some suggestions:

First off, if you can, find a professional trainer in your area that has experience with this tool. An experienced pro can help  you through the remote collar conditioning process and get you on your way to enjoying off-leash adventures with your dog.

If you are trying to find a pro in your area, check nearby E-cademy graduates near you hereAll of these dog training professionals have dedicated time and effort to spend ten days studying at the That’s My Dog! E-cademy Program.

Since 2002, I  have been teaching the “how-to’s” of using a remote collar for training dogs to other professionals. However, since not all trainers make it a priority to learn these valuable techniques, you may not be able to find a skilled trainer in your area.

If that is the case, pick up a copy of my Just Right! DVD set and get your dog started on the right track. Remote collar dog training in a safe, efficient and humane way to train with my step-by-step approach.

Just Right! is a two volume DVD set that provides dog owners a remote collar dog training guide starting with the basics. You will learn everything you need to know as a remote collar beginner such as, properly fitting the collar, and determining the just right level of stimulation for your dog and understanding how that varies according to the distractions present.

You will be able to teach your dog to:

  • Walk nicely on a loose leash
  • Come back when called
  • Learn to Sit and stay
  • Learn to Down and Stay
  • Learn to remain on a Place (dog bed or mat)

You will also understand how to use the remote collar training to stop nuisance behaviors like:

  • Jumping up
  • Nipping and mouthing
  • Inappropriate chewing
  • Excessive barking

With the 2-volume DVD, you will have your very own personal remote collar dog training guide to reference whenever you like.  Both you and your dog will be less frustrated by ineffective training methods and on your way to more freedom and off leash fun!

Remote Collar Dog Training Techniques

Remote Collar Dog Training Techniques: Toys and Tricks

Learning some basic remote collar dog training techniques will teach you that your dog can have fun while learning commands and discipline.

I bet that feels like a pretty big deal, especially if you’ve tuned into much of the propaganda that is out there about “shock collars” also known as remote collars. I’m sure it sounds like “rubbish” as Victoria Stillwell might say. (Victoria the actress that portrays a dog trainer on the television show, It’s Me or the Dog.

But the truth is, it’s not a big deal if you know some basic remote collar dog training techniques whether you’re focusing on training techniques to include toys and or tricks.

Knowing what you are doing means understanding that the sensation is just that, a sensation and it can be conditioned to mean whatever the trainer decides they want it to mean.

The e-collar stimulation can be “too high” and that might mean whoa, stop that right now, get away from there or any other reason to create an avoidance response in your dog. I’d say that sort of use is generally when people refer to the tool as a shock collar. Or the e-collar stimulation can be “too low” and you can push the button till you’re blue in the face and the dog won’t seemingly mind or even notice. Or the e-collar stimulation can be “just right” and you can use it to prompt your dog’s attention into a behavior you would like.

It is up to the person holding the tool’s transmitter to decide if it’s a shock collar or a remote training collar.

I prefer using a remote training collar and it’s what I’ve taught my staff and what many other professional trainers around the world are also doing. (click here if you want to find help in your area)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so perhaps a video is worth even more. Here you go, you can decide.

This is typical toy dog training protocol at our place, you decide if it looks this little one is having fun or not?

*Updated 1/11/16

Reasons or Results – Which Will You Choose?

Dog Behavior Problems and Solutions. Will You Choose Reasons or Results?

I recently wrote about 5 ways to mess up your dog. The list included obvious mistakes in dog ownership like not providing enough exercise or structure, but it also mentioned, “letting sympathy rein” regarding how we often view shelter dogs or dogs with anxiety issues.

To make my point about how useless sympathy is in helping rehabilitate dogs that have behavioral issues, allow me to share with you a bit of my personal story.

Years ago I had to go through some significant physical therapy after being involved in an auto accident.

On Halloween of 1997, I found myself careening down the side of a California mountain in a U-Haul that lost its brakes. Through deft maneuvering on the part of my sister driving, we opted to take the truck into the hillside rather than “off” of the cliff edge. It was the best choice available, and we both survived the impact. The challenge for the rescue team was extracting us from the crushed cab of the vehicle. Both of my legs got tangled and crushed into the wreckage, and it took the crew about 3 hours to figure out how to get me extricated. As a result, I had numerous broken bones and a cracked vertebrae.

There were a few months spent in a wheelchair before I proceeded to crutches and eventually to walking free of assistance (which the surgeon at the time of the accident wasn’t sure would be possible). I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the rescue team, the talented crew in the operating room and enormous credit to my physical therapist, Tony. He never really bothered to hear much of my story or invest time in lamenting what had happened to me to get me into that situation. He just pushed me forward day after day to learn to walk again and regain every bit of physical ability that I could.

So how does this tie into to helping a dog improve their behavior?

Well, as the title says, you can have ‘Reasons or Results,’ but the key word in that statement is OR. You simply cannot have both. You have to choose which direction you want to invest your time and energy into.

Unfortunately, I often see people who are more locked into the reasons their dog does XYZ (whatever behavior is of concern) than in actually working to create positive change.

The reasons are numerous and typically emotionally charged: “He’s a rescue dog,” “she was attacked by another dog,” “he never got socialized as a puppy,” “she came from a puppy mill,” “he lived outside tied to a tree,” or “we think he was abused.”

These reasons may be perfectly valid, but all too often owners allow those reasons to get in the way of helping the dog. The sympathy takes over and becomes an excuse for not doing the work needed to make the situation better.

Words have tremendous power. They influence emotions and emotions are what influence us to take action. For this reason, we should be conscious of the words we use to describe our dogs. Those descriptions create a fine line between simply becoming reasons or actually turning into results.

For example, how do you think about a training problem versus a training challenge? While they could equally be used to describe a situation, one feels more daunting while the other inspires us to take action.

This is what I meant when I referred to the mistake of letting sympathy rein in the 5 mistakes article. All too often dogs described as “rescue dog” or a dog “we think was abused” have been handicapped by owners who can’t put the sympathy aside. It simply does no good to keep that thought prevalent in our mindset. Whatever happened is in the past. It should not determine the dog’s future.

When I first met Tony for PT, he never asked me “what happened?” we just started working on the goal of getting me walking again. There was never a single moment of “poor Robin.” There was only the continual push of persevering toward a goal. I am eternally grateful for that.

Stay focused on the results you want to create with your dog. Don’t let speculation about abuse, rescue, neglect, etc. overtake your thinking and limit your expectations of what is possible.

Change your words and thus your thinking. Try exchanging “rescue” for “adopted,” switch “scared” to “shy” and drop abused altogether. I am not encouraging you to deny what was, but perhaps it is time to move on. Your dog has more potential and resilience than you likely give him or her credit for.

You can have reasons OR results. Which one do you choose?

Teaching a Dog to Retrieve

Teaching a Dog to Retrieve: A Rewarding Skill to Practice 

Teaching a dog to retrieve is one of the most rewarding skills you can work on. I’m not talking about the game of chasing a ball and bringing it back to you. While that is certainly a fun activity and good exercise for your dog, I am speaking to the task of deliberately retrieving specific items and delivering them into your hand.

Many dogs will chase and pick up something like a ball or toy that we toss for them, but few can be directed to pick up the car keys or remote for the television and bring it to us.

The difference between chasing and grabbing a toy that is moving (which stimulates prey drive) and picking up an object that is still and possibly undesirable, like metal is significant.

Teaching a dog to retrieve is not an easy task, and I do my best to prepare those who sign up for my retrieve workshop to understand that it will likely be the most challenging skill they teach their dog.

However, it will also be the most rewarding.

It is rewarding for several reasons, the obvious being that you will have a great helper around the house! My dogs perform all sorts of little tasks on a daily basis that make life with some physical limitations a whole lot easier. My dogs retrieve my shoes (insert Video of Shoe Retrieve) and pick up things that I’ve dropped, like my keys or a pencil. They can help me carry groceries to the house and can hold their own leashes when I have to stop to tie my shoe.

The flip side of my appreciation for their help is that the dogs LOVE having a job to perform. I believe it builds a sense of accomplishment in them. The tails wag furiously when they deliver some prize to me. They love it so much they will compete to be first to the item if I am not explicit in WHO is supposed to get the retrieve. A dog that has a “job” to perform on a routine basis is far less stressed by boredom and more fulfilled with daily life.

The other, but subtler, outcome of teaching a trained retrieve is what it does to enhance the relationship between dog and dog owner. Going through this training process will bring to light gaps that exist in how well we understand our dogs behavior. Teaching the retrieve will improve a handler’s ability to know the difference between the dog being confused about the desired task and the dog flat out refusing. That is a key piece of knowledge that anyone wanting to enhance the human-canine relationship through training must learn.

The difference my retrieve workshop has from other forced retrieve methods is that we work from beginning to end using the e-collar. From the start, it is a pressure on, pressure off guidance system that builds clarity in the dogs mind and does not require any significant discomfort to the dog to learn to hold, carry, open the mouth or go out. It is still a “forced” retrieve process but surprisingly gentle on the dog in comparison to other forced methods. So much so, that I can teach in a group format, and my audiences are primarily pet owners, rather than professional trainers.

Intriguing huh? ☺

Enjoy the photos and videos from the most recent weekend workshop and if you are interested in learning more watch the That’s My Dog! Newsletter for announcements of the next seminar.

Retrieve Workshop


Hiking with Your Dog: A Great Bonding and Training Experience

Hiking with your dog is an excellent way to improve your relationship and build a powerful connection.

Hiking with my dogs is one of my favorite activities. I love the solitude of the woods and sharing that time with my dogs makes the experience even better. Being on the trails does us good, both physically and mentally.

I know that the idea of letting a dog off leash makes many people nervous. The thought that a dog might bolt and disappear is a real concern for anyone who has not taken the time to train and build a strong, mutually respectful relationship with their canine.

One of the skills I instill early on in my dogs is the idea of “checking in.” When my pups are young, I take them to various safe locations and allow them to lose track of me. Then I drop back and “hide”. When they realize they have lost visual contact with me, they come looking pretty quickly.

It leaves a strong impression, and they learn to stop and check back when we are out and about. It is a great skill to instill because it means that I do not have to manage their behavior constantly when we are in the woods. They have learned some self-accountability to keep an eye on me rather than me having to do all the work.

You’ll notice in this short video that my youngest dog, Diva, had apparently hung back on the trail, likely distracted by some smell. She came barreling to catch up. Then when she over shot my location and went out of sight, it did not take long for her to venture back on her own. All this happened without me saying or doing a thing. She managed her behavior so that she stayed within a safe range of her pack.

My older guy, Tommy, used to do a similar thing by running ahead, venturing 50 yards or so, before turning back and checking in. As he has gotten older though he seems to prefer the comfort of staying pretty close to me.

Dogs are not dumb. Safety in numbers is one of the rules of pack mentality. Turning on that instinct early in a pup’s life naturally brings you some peace of mind for this kind of off leash enjoyment together.

As a general rule, though, this is a skill that needs to be established early on in a pups life. If you do not play the hide and seek game prior to 4-5 months of age, I’d suggest finding an alternative way to teach the idea of checking in. After five months or so it might not be wise to be off leash in the woods with an untrained dog. By that age, many dogs are confident enough to venture off quite a way on their own and could end up lost.

It is relatively easy to teach with some e-collar training, but we’ll save that topic for another post.

hiking with dogs

Here are a few other tips for hitting the trails with your companions:

Don’t let them out ahead of you when going around a blind curve. Since you cannot see around those blind turns, you never know what might be on the other side. Keep the dogs with you when you approach turns in the trail that don’t provide you a visual of what’s ahead.

Spritz the coat with a detangling product so that any burs will brush right out. I use a product called ShowSheen. A quick application before we head to the woods means I do not have to spend hours pulling prickly seeds out of the dogs tails when we get back.

Dress appropriately. Here in the Midwest, being in the woods in the fall also means hunting season.  I wear blaze orange, and the dogs have either a vest on or a bell attached to their collars. Making your presence known depending on location and time of year is something to be aware of.


Happy trails!

Remote Collar Dog Training: Six Things That You Need to Know

Tips for Remote Collar Dog Training

I spend a lot of time on this blog sharing success stories from people who have used remote collar dog training as part of a balanced training program to rehabilitate their dog. I also spend a fair amount of time expressing my opinions on training in general and talking about what to do if you are thinking about purchasing a remote collar to add to your dog’s training tools.

What I try not to do is give you a bunch of absolutes as in Never This or Always That.

I believe things are rarely black and white decisions. Most situations have various shades of gray involved that need to be considered.

I am going to break my own rules today and give you the list of absolutes in regard to remote collar dog training, so here we go:

1. Never purchase a remote collar just because you are frustrated with your dog’s behavior and you want to “show him/her once and for all!”
Do your homework and purchase a remote collar when you are ready to invest the time to teach your dog the alternative good behaviors that you expect)

2. Always start your remote collar conditioning training in an area with limited distractions. This allows you to use the lowest possible setting to get your dog’s attention and to TEACH your dog how to have control over the sensation. AFTER you’ve done some thorough conditioning THEN you can begin to expose your dog to the situations and triggers you’ve been struggling with.

3. Never start your remote collar training off leash. That is setting you and your dog up for failure. A leash or drag line allows you to assist the dog in being successful with the requested task. You should also be incorporating treats, toys, play and praise as part of the training. The “Help” part of the early training is crucial to a positive outcome of having a dog who fully understands what is being asked and will respond enthusiastically.

4. Always be in the right frame of mind when you are working with your dog. If your attitude is frustration, uncertainty or anger, it will travel down the leash. If you are uncertain about how to use a remote collar, GET EDUCATED. You wouldn’t buy all the right tools to work on your car’s engine without having the knowledge to know what you’re doing would you? When you are training you are working on your dog’s mind. Learn how it works and how to teach your dog to respond to your expectations. Then practice what you’ve learned with patience and a good attitude.

5. Never expect your dog to “know” what the stimulation means when you first start training. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done years of previous training or not, the first time you put a remote collar on your dog is still the first time your dog has any experience with it. You have to start at the beginning and TEACH the dog how to respond to it. Having the expectation that “my dog knows” is like expecting someone to be able to read French just because they know Spanish and Mandarin. The is a new tool and a new way of communicating and it needs to be taught like anything else.

6. Always get professional help if possible. And this is especially true if you experience ANY problems in the training process. I realize there is a segment of the population that are “do-it-yourself” types, and even though I have 2 training dvd’s available to help guide people, I still feel strongly that you will get more out of the process if you have an experienced e-collar specialist give you some guidance. An experienced eye will just see some of the nuances that you might miss. Here is a list of some of my friends who can help.

For the record, I feel that way about any type of training, regardless of the tool.

There you have my list of Never and Always. I am hoping some of my trainer friends will chime in if I’ve forgotten anything. The main goal is to get us out of the dark ages of remote collar dog training and continue to move us into the age of remote communication with our canine companions.

Remote Training Collar for Puppy Training.

Remote Training Collar for Puppy Training : How to Use It

In a previous post titled Never Shock a Puppy, I discussed my thoughts on how a remote training collar for puppy training can be used as a feedback system similar to the way a GPS unit provides feedback to a driver trying to stay on course. You can read more here if you missed the original post to learn more tips about remote training collar for puppy training.

I also said I would try to do a follow up on the little guy in the first video, so here it is. This is two weeks after he started his training, from no obedience to working off leash outside with distractions, from fearful of other dogs to playing in a social group, and from no idea of what walking on a leash meant to heeling with attention.

As you can see, he did great, but as I mention time and time again…it is not because of the e-collar itself. A benefit of using a remote training collar for puppy training is that it expedites the learning and reliability when we understand how to use it to provide useful information to the puppy. Puppies learn pretty much the same way as we do, from feedback. What works, what doesn’t. What is rewarding, what isn’t. When you can provide that information clearly, consistently, and in a non-emotional way, a dog can learn very rapidly. The proof is right there in the video that a remote training collar for a puppy is a beneficial training tool.

If you need help finding a competent trainer in your area, check here.

Remote Collar Training for Puppies?

Training for Puppies: “Never shock a puppy?”

If you have a new pooch and you’re looking for some help with training for your puppy, you can find a lot of great information out there. You’ll also likely find some strong opinions like; “never shock a puppy”.

Those are some scary words, meant to entice emotion and title to one of the anti e-collar campaigns…and I agree with that sentiment. I would never shock a puppy. I would NEVER advise someone to run out, purchase an electronic collar put it on their 6 month old pup, wait for them to be “bad” and then push the button. That, in all likelihood would cause some adverse fallout including possible superstitious behavior around people, other dogs or even objects.

However, I would use an e-collar as a communication device to guide a pup into behavior that can be rewarded. I would collar condition a pup so they have an understanding of what the stimulation means and how they could control the sensation. Then I would use the tool to encourage behavior I want and discourage behavior I don’t want.

Now you might ask why I or others like me would do such a thing and the answer is “because if you actually know what you are doing with this piece of equipment it is the fairest, fastest, most humane tool you can use to train your dog.” As part of well-rounded training for puppies approach, the remote collar can be a wonderful addition.

I believe remote collar training done well works the way a GPS system works when you are driving your car. You receive information for when you are off course and information of what to do to stay on the right route. No one seems to feel it would be more appropriate to create a GPS unit that ONLY tells you when you make the right turn while ignoring your “off route” moves. If you think about that it is pretty humorous…but I imagine it would also be rather frustrating if you actually want to arrive at your destination on time.

Imagine for a moment that I tell you “hey, lets get in the car and drive to the destination I have in my mind and I’ll only tell you yes when we are on the right route and I’ll give you a dollar every time you make a correct guess in direction” we might have a grand ole’ time for a bit, but I’m thinking we won’t get there any too fast. Now add in the criteria that getting to the destination correctly also means only then do you get to get out of my car, go home and back to your life you might get a tad frustrated about how long the task will take. It seems that when time begins to matter…we prefer more constructive feedback.

That is my perspective on reliable training for puppies or training for any dog for that matter. It is feedback, yes and no are both communicated to the dog. The challenge with educating about e-collars is helping people understand that “no” does not have to be painful or startling. I honestly try to understand the viewpoint that the never shock a puppy advocates are coming from. I really get it that there are some who will use a tool out of frustration and I am keenly aware that there is some lousy equipment on the mass market. Neither of those points are going to be debated by me (in fact they are part of the reason I keep speaking out)….but those points alone don’t convince me that the tool should be banned from the market. If that is the “ban stuff” criteria, than there is a lot of stuff that needs to be banned in the world.

In place of e-collar bans we need massive education and we seriously need the manufacturers to step up and take a lead role in this…the quality e-collar trainers out here are doing the best we can but it is time for some support.

Now this is just speculation, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and question that perhaps what the anti e-collar advocates are really worried about is the fact that some of us can do things so much faster, with so much more reliability with this method of training that it is threatening to their careers. If they can’t compete with these type of results with their preferred tools and methodology then perhaps it makes sense that the easiest solution is to ban the tool that provides an advantage?

As far as making up your mind about if one should Never Shock a Puppy….tell me what you think of this little guy. He’s six months old. He came in because he puppy play bites, chases people, pulls on leash, does some nuisance barking, is scared of other dogs, jumps up a lot, and likes to play “catch me if you can”. This short clip was taken on the second day of his 2 week board and train program. As you are watching, pay really close attention and tell me how many times did I push the button on the remote collar? (cause Yes, I DID push the button, however I never shocked the dog)

Now here’s the disclaimer. If you have not used a remote collar before and you think this looks cool, it is but find HELP if you want to learn to do this with your dog. Training for puppies, or training for dogs, for that matter need not be that difficult. With a bit of time, education and commitment most anyone can achieve a well behaved companion.

“I love this shock collar!”

shock collar for dogs
Jasper and his family

Those are the actual words MacKenzie spoke about 15 minutes into our first lesson with her Labrador Retriever pup, Jasper, early Friday morning. In the discussion that followed Continue reading ““I love this shock collar!””