Wait is probably the most used cue that I use with my dogs on a daily basis. The behavior teaches your dog impulse control and makes many situations much safer. Wait means don’t move forward, I don’t care what position you are in. Different from the traditional “stay” which is usually a sit or down position, don’t move from that position. The wait is a temporary hold. This skill is so helpful to teach your dog to not run through doorways, pass you on the stairs, jump out of the car and “wait” for the food bowl.
What’s great about having a trained skill like this is that you usually get an “automatic” response once it is trained. Such as, I open the door of my motorhome and the dogs have been told to “wait” hundreds of times, so they do it automatically. But you have to be on top of it, because if we have arrived at a dog park and the dogs are super excited, I have to remember to say “wait” and watch them closely because they can sometimes push those limits in the moment of anticipation.
“WAIT” for the food bowl:
- This is the best place to start to teach your dog what “wait” means. Since you do this usually twice a day, your dog will get to practice this twice a day. In about a week, you’ll be ready to practice with the door.
- You are not going to say anything the first couple of days! Fix your dog’s bowl of food. Have your dog at least 3 feet from the place where you will put the bowl on the floor.
- Have your dog sit, this helps with moving forward. Start to put the bowl down, as soon as the dog moves, you lift the bowl. The bowl does not go to the floor until there is a 1 second pause.
- You are going to go through the process of lowering the bowl and picking it back up until your dog pauses for 1 second. It might be several times, the first time.
- When you get that 1 second pause, say your release word OKAY (or whatever it is) and put the bowl down. This is key; you must get the release word in.
- When your dog is reliably pausing 1 or 2 seconds and you are getting in the release word, now you can say your word, WAIT.
- Each day, add ½ second more. After a few weeks, make it harder with you moving in the kitchen and/or asking for 5-10 seconds.
- I use a peace sign with my hand for a hand signal for wait.
- Finished behavior looks like this. Your dog is sitting, you say WAIT, you put the bowl down, your dog is sitting looking at you, you release and the dog moves forward and eats.
“WAIT” at the door:
- Start to open the door and as your dog starts to move through, shut the door quickly (without slamming her nose of course!). Repeat several times until your dog backs up and does not try to go through the door.
- When your dog does not move towards the door, step through the door, turn and say your release word could be “Ok” “Bravo!” whatever your decide.
- If your dog starts to move through before you release, use the door to stop her. You want her to wait for you to release her.
- When she is waiting successfully for instruction from you, repeat the above steps adding the cue “WAIT” and your hand signal (I use two fingers, like a peace sign) as you go to open the door.
- Extra tip: When your dog is on the other side of the door, deliver a treat. Once he knows it make this a random treat, some times yes, some times not. The reason for this little extra is that it gives you a pause so the dog doesn’t try to run off in case you dropped the leash.
“WAIT” at the Car Door:
- First, have a leash on your dog in the car.
- Open the door just a little so you can grab the leash. If you have 2 people, have one get in and hold the leash.
- Use the leash to stop your dog from jumping out of the car, don’t use the car door.
- If your dog jumps out before you release, say “OOPS” and put her back in the car and try again.
- Try the extra tip above of giving the dog a treat when he is on the ground. This can be very helpful giving you a pause and then you can say “sit” “stay” while you close the door and get situated.
“WAIT” at the Stairs”
- First, have a leash on your dog.
- Set up at the bottom of the stairs. (better to practice up at first verses down)
- At the bottom of the stairs ask for “WAIT” and start up the stairs. If he starts up after you, say “OOPS” and go back down to the bottom and start again with “WAIT”.
- Repeat until you get to the top. When you are at the top of the stairs
- Release with your release word and reward the dog with a treat at the top of the stairs.
“WAIT” for fun!
- If you have incorporated the “rock” trick when on an off leash walk, this is a fun way to up the ante and practice “wait” and “come”.
- Once your dog is on a rock, log or bench, ask him to “WAIT”.
- Walk a few steps away. Say your release word and “COME”.
- Reward with treats and praise.
- Keep adding in a few feet more. I play this game with my dogs and get down the trail a bit. They think this is the most fun game ever, running with all their might to me. And little do they know, we are training while having a blast!
I hope you find this helpful, it is the first thing (after his name) I taught my impulsive Jack Russell Terrier, Mick!