While everyone knows about common obedience commands like sit, come, down, and leave it – there is another training command that’s particularly useful for Great Danes. PLACE! The place command allows you to better position your Great Dane into any spot. It’s flexible and precise nature is incredibly helpful for maneuvering your giant dog into the correct spot in any situation.
For example, say you’re on the outdoor patio of a restaurant and you’d like for your Great Dane to lie down on the left side of the table so that they’re not blocking passersby. Simply telling them “down” doesn’t tell them where to lie down. The same goes for sit. Enter “place” to the rescue! By simply pointing and saying “place”, you can instruct your Great Dane exactly where they need to go.
What exactly does “place” mean?
By issuing the place command, you’re instructing your Great Dane to go to a specific spot. Once the dog reaches the spot, they should also sit to signal completion of the command. The beauty of the place command is that it can be globally applied. Meaning you should be able to tell your dog to go to any spot simply by stating “place” and clearly pointing to the location.
Here are a few examples of Gus showing off her “place” skills!
While most of these are silly or photo op related, you can see just how flexible it can be for getting them to a specific spot! Advanced uses of the place command may also incorporate the names of specific areas that your dog is frequently around. “Bed” or “crate” are examples where you’ve combined “place + bed” or “place + crate” into one.
How do I teach the place command?
Step 1: Get a raised platform
As with most training, there’s more than one way to teach an old dog a new trick 😉 Due to the specific nature of the place command, we’ve found the use of a small raised platform greatly speeds up the process. The raised surface creates a physical target for your Great Dane to aim for. This makes it very easy for them to distinguish when they have or have not made it to the specific spot.
While smaller breeds can get away with training place using stacked pieces of foam or a stool, you should look to create something more substantial for your Great Dane. Not just in terms of physical size, but also the strength to hold their weight as they grow! Even as puppies, Great Danes are simply too large to use foam place boards such as the one shown below.
In addition to the place platform simply lasting more than one session, you’ll want it to be sturdy so that your Great Dane feels comfortable stepping up onto it. Great Dane’s can be fickle at times, so you don’t want something that’s wobbly or unsteady. Pictured below is the first place platform that I built for Gus. While it ended up being much larger than needed, it worked great for training!
Let me know if the comments if you’d like instructions on how to build one yourself and I’ll put together an instructional guide with step-by-step instructions.
Step 2: Additional supplies and getting them familiar with the platform
Now that you’ve built or purchased your own raised platform for place training it’s time to teach them the command. In addition to the platform, you will also need a 6-foot leash non-retractable leash to guide them through the steps in the early phases. Hopefully the leash is something that you’ve already got on hand, but if not any 6-foot nylon version will do.
Before starting the actual place training, it’s important to get your Great Dane used to jumping on and off the place platform. Let them spend plenty of time playing around and on it so that they’re familiar and comfortable with it. If they end up wanting to lounge on it on their own time, all the better!
Step 3: Teaching the PLACE command
- Take your place platform, Dane, and leash to an area with plenty of room to maneuver.
- Put the place platform in the middle of the open area and move 10-15 feet away from it with your dog on the leash.
- Have your Great Dane sit, and get their attention.
- Once you’ve got their attention, point directly at the platform in the middle of the open area and clearly say “PLACE”. Your arm should be fully extended and held static momentarily to make it obvious that you’re pointing at the platform.
- Wait for 2 seconds to allow them to grasp what you’re pointing at, then jog over to the platform with them by your side on leash. Make sure to take up all of the leash slack so that they make a direct line with you to the platform and don’t have any room for detours.
- If they don’t jump on top of the platform on their own, guide them onto it.
- Instruct your Great Dane to also sit once on top of the platform if they have not already.
- Allow them to remain in the sit position on top of the platform for 5-10 seconds to reinforce the final position.
- Using “OK” or your chosen release command, allow them to hop off the box and celebrate the successful place with them! Spend a minute lavishing them with attention or playing so that they associate good outcomes with successful places.
- Repeat this process until they start running and jumping on to the place platform on their own. Once this starts happening, it’s a good time to switch out the 6-foot leash for a 20 or 30-foot long line version. This allows you to practice place with them without needing to run over to the platform yourself as well.
Common mistakes when teaching place
- Not being clear when pointing. You need to be crystal clear with what it is that you’re pointing at. It’s important that your dog learns to associate the point with the command as two parts. As your dog advances with the command, you will be swapping out different items for them to place on. Your (hopefully) clearly pointed hand is what will be guiding them.
- Poor leash control. During the early stages, you will play a large part in guiding them on to the place platform. Keeping them on a short leash is incredibly important so that they associate the place command with heading straight to the specified location. Any slack that allows for detours to sniff other dogs, chase squirrels, or roll in the mud not helpful to the training process.
- No physical release. After a successful place, it’s incredibly important to physically have the jump back off the platform to receive attention or play. Doing so creates a very distinct “before” and “after” for the command.
- Not holding for long enough. Avoid letting your Great Dane perform a “touch and go” on top of the place platform. Place doesn’t mean that they get to hop up and then go about their business. It means that they should sit and wait until being released. Realizing that puppies don’t have the longest of attention spans you don’t need to keep them up their indefinitely. The 5-10 second mark is a good starting point, which you can extend as they learn the trick.
Increasing the difficulty
- Distance. Once your Great Dane has mastered going to the platform on their own, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise by moving them further and further away. Unless you’ve got a very strong recall, this typically is done in a fenced area to prevent any mishaps should they get a strong desire to chase off after a squirrel!
- Time. While we recommend starting with 5-10 second holds on top of the platform, it’s certainly not the maximum amount of time. Try to slowly increase the time until they can hold it for a few minutes. Before you know it, they’ll have mastered the concept of “stay” without even realizing it!
- Swapping out objects to “place” on. As you may have noticed from the pictures above, we routinely had Gus practice her place on different objects. These can be things you find in the park like a big rock, stumps, benches, or even a picnic table! However, hold off on trying these new objects until your Great Dane has mastered their original place platform to avoid confusion. Once they master raised objects, you can introduce simply pointing to a spot on the ground as their target to place onto.
While I titled this section as increasing the difficulty, it’s really about creating flexibility with the place command. Sure, having your giant dog run any jump onto a far away object is an impressive display of their training but it’s not as useful in everyday life. However, being able to point to any spot and telling your Great Dane to place can be very helpful in public outings. Say you take your dog to dinner or to a public square, you can them exactly where to go to keep them out of harm’s way.
If you think that the PLACE command is too advanced for your Great Dane, then we’d recommend taking a look into some of our beginner training articles. First and foremost, leash training is one of the most important concepts to teach your Great Dane. In addition to that one, we’ve also got an article on the 3 most important training commands for Great Danes.