The “place” command is a great tool to introduce to any dog, and especially retrievers. Waterfowl hunters often need their dogs to stay and work from a distance, be it 10 feet or 20 yards. And retrievers should be comfortable sitting and staying on less-than-comfortable structures, such as downed logs in beaver swamps or small platforms in marsh.
I use an old tire as a backyard “place” training tool. It provides a slightly elevated platform that helps a dog understand that this is its “place.” I cut the corners off an old foam archery target to fit the top of the tire, and secured in place with paracord. You could do the same with a piece of plywood. It wouldn’t be as ugly as mine, but it would be just as effective.
One place. With the dog on a leash and a treat in your non-leash hand, lead the dog to the “place” stand. Using the hand with the treat, point with your finger to the stand, say “place,” and use the treat to guide the dog up to the stand. Give the treat the instant the dog sits. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Two places. Once the dog knows “place,” set up a route with multiple stations for the “place” command. Use another tire, a few cinder blocks, and other items that provide a well-defined place to sit. Once your pooch is solid on the command, add stations with no elevation, such as carpet squares.
Tough places. Add “place” stations that have a degree of difficulty or instability to your training route. Minnie works an obstacle course around the yard. There are log rounds, a cooler, and my favorite: an overturned canoe. It’s a bit slippery and wobbly, so she really has to watch her balance. On walks, give the “place” command at park benches, retaining walls, and other similar structures.