By Lori Jolly


So, you want a start line stay in agility? Teach the place board. Want to teach an honor in the field? Teach the place board. Working on steadiness? Teach the place board. Need to teach the go out in obedience? Teach the place board. Working on sit-stays or fronts for obedience? Teach the place board. Want to do train alone marks with your field dog? Teach the place board. Need I say more? In fact, if you just want to answer the door without your dog under your feet, teach the place board!!!

The place board has a multitude of uses and is fun and easy to teach. The place board is a wonderful training aid to teach your dog in black and white terms when they have made a mistake and more importantly how to make good choices.

The place board should only be large enough for your dog to sit comfortably with his front feet and haunches tucked underneath him so that he is sitting straight up and not slumped. It should also be about 3" off the ground in height and have a non- slip surface. I have several but the size I use most in the field is an 18" x 18" x 3" board. I do have one that is 18" x 24" x 3" for a larger dog. Mine is made of a smooth wood that doesn’t splinter and is painted with non-slip paint (sand in paint) that is green like the grass. The one I use in obedience is black like most obedience mats.

I begin teaching my puppies to "go place" at about 3 to 4 months of age with the clicker. You could also lure them with treats. Once they understand to get onto the board I name it "place" which means get onto the board and sit. Then I teach them the release word, "ok" with a tap on the shoulder to release them. Once they are released I teach them to race back to the board for a click and treat or just a treat. Now they have a game. Place, release to cookie and race back to the board so the game begins again. Once they love the place board game, we begin to work on steadiness on the PB. We start with just a second or two in the beginning and slowly build on duration. They are always rewarded for the "stay" on the board before the release. Never release and then reward or the release becomes more important than the stay on the board.

Once they have a reliable stay for a few seconds I begin the cookie toss game. I start with requesting the "place" with reward. I then ask for the "stay" and toss a cookie down by my right foot so that if the dog were to get up I can pick up the cookie before the dog self rewards. I usually hold the leash in a static and taut pull, making the dog resist (opposition reflex) to insure he understands to stay. I reward the stay, and then release to the cookie on the floor with "ok, get it!" and say " go place" as soon as the dog eats the cookie so the dog will race back to the board for another treat. All good things happen from the board. I repeat on the other side and stand close to the dog so I can control his stay and show him that he is not to jump off for the cookie until released to do so. Gradually, I will move further and further away and the cookie will be tossed closer to the right and left of the dog as his understanding increases.

If the dog should try to leave the board before he is released, I just place him back on the board and use the static pull on the leash to remind him of his job. Then I will reward with "good stay" (no cookie for this one) and release the dog from the board and break off the exercise and start again.

Once the dog can do this exercise with the cookie, I begin to use a bumper toss in place of the cookie toss. Now he is to wait, toss the bumper to the dog’s right or left; reward the stay and release the dog to retrieve the bumper and have him race back to the board to deliver the bumper to hand and is again rewarded for getting back onto the board.

As your dog is proficient at this, you can now introduce him to being on a long line and you walk out in the field about 20 yards to start, toss the bumper. If the dog stays, walk in and reward the stay with a cookie. Then walk back out to the place where you threw the mark, and release the dog to retrieve the bumper and deliver it to you in the field. Once he has delivered the bumper to you in the field you then send him back to the place board. He should go on his own without you going with him. If you have done all the preliminary work properly he will already understand this. You might have to encourage him a time or two when you transition into the field but it shouldn’t take much to do so.

Again, as the dog understands his job and takes responsibility for staying on the board until released he now learns how to make a retrieve happen! I can teach a steadiness drill by tossing a bumper over my shoulder and if the dog stays I will release him. If he breaks before sent, I intercept the dog and return him to the PB, pick up the bumper and try again. If necessary I can shorten up and simplify until the dog understands that he is to stay until released. I finish out my steadiness drill with the dog on the PB until I can stand by his side and throw and he remains sitting until sent. This teaches the dog to make good decisions and to choose to be steady in order to make the retrieve! I can walk out 100 yards or more and do train alone marks with my dog to build distance, work on angles across ditches or any teaching single. Once the dog retrieves the bumper he is then sent back to "place" so in a sense he is doing a pattern blind of sorts. You can place an electric fence post 3 feet behind the PB so it is a marker for the dog to find more easily when you build some distance for the marks.

I use the PB for train alone marks, honoring, steadiness, teaching a dog where to come into heel in the field, to keep them in place when setting a young dog up for a blind, for center position on three handed casting, teaching fronts, and so many other applications in obedience and agility. It is a great tool as it puts the responsibility on your dog and there is no nagging, no pulling on a leash, and no creeping, etc. This makes his position black and white and his understanding of his job very clear. And, it‘s fun to teach!!

You can view all the steps of this lesson on video on demand at www.e-trainingfordogs.com under Place Board Lessons. Happy training!

Lorie C Jolly, member FEC

Rosehill Retrievers