The Importance of Teaching Your Dog to “Wait”

As the guardian in a multi-dog household, the Wait cue is one of the most used in my training tool box. Once a wait behavior has been established, the cue can be incorporated in various situations to make daily life less hectic and more manageable. Once trained, when you cue Wait, there’s a pause in the dog’s behavior before something good (to the dog’s thinking) happens. Wait is a short time span – a few seconds – before continuing forward. A longer Wait or Stay can be trained; however, in our household the behavior of Wait is merely a simple pause before further action.

You Can Avoid the Chaos

The benefits in having our bigger guys, Ryder and Razzor, wait quietly while their meal is prepared is, as the television commercial says, priceless. If the dogs don’t offer the behavior of Wait before dinner or I don’t remind them by cueing Wait, then chaos may ensue. Razzor, our most energetic Aussie, will begin by pacing, whining, and jumping up to check food bowls and will charge the dog gate (which separates him from the smaller members of the canine family, GG and Beau). Those frenetic actions on Razzor’s part gets GG thinking its playtime and she begins barking back at Razzor, running from gate to gate trying to entice him in a game of chase. In the process Beau, our oldest (who is not so steady on his feet and is losing his eyesight), gets bumped into which could cause injury. Beau adds to the noise by barking his displeasure. Ryder, our older and calmer Aussie, barks at Razzor as if telling him to stop all this foolishness, but like most younger siblings, Razzor ignores him. Things really don’t get out of hand, just loud and messy. Messy on my part because I’m rushing to give everyone their meal which creates spills and confusion (Did I already add Beau’s medicine? Is that the proper amount of wet to dry? etc.). They are merely being dogs.

All this can be avoided with that one word “WAIT” and in my home, usually an added hand signal to reinforce the verbal cue. I ask for a sit Wait from the boys while I complete the making of the meal. All calm, no loud chaos. The boys seem to eat more slowly when they start their meal in a calmer frame of mind. That just has to be better for their digestion.

Pet Gates Are Great Management Tools

We have dog gates in about every doorway throughout our home due to the age and size differences among our four dogs. And also because we have campers visiting at Camp Happy Dog. Camp Happy Dog is an overnight camping experience within our home. For our dogs, as well as any campers, a nice Wait at a gate and or door is very necessary. This is as much a safety issue, as it is being polite and mannerly. When a camper visits, one of the first things I assess about the dog is if he knows the behavior of Wait. Campers need some sort of impulse control before the opening of the large heavy, outward swinging, kennel door. Quite necessary to protect my nose and my teeth! Believe me, getting hit in the face once by a large dog jumping against the gate as you reach to unlock it and you’ll not forget to ask for a Wait again. If the visiting camper doesn’t have a Wait, then I teach it for my own protection.

Waiting at the back door before going out into the yard is also important. This Wait before going through the door, has absolutely nothing to do with who is in charge or “leader of the pack”. That’s really misguided, old-fashioned information. My dog’s Wait has everything to do with safety and besides, it’s just polite. Scuffles may erupt when several dogs try to ram through a tight doorway in a hurry. Pushing, shoving, knocking me over can also occur. A Wait on the dog’s part allows me to look out the door to insure the area is clear of small wildlife (sometimes even larger wildlife, such as deer) before releasing them to run and play into a safe, fenced area. For both Ryder and Razzor, excitement abounds as we head through a couple of gates toward the door to the great outdoors. There’s so much anticipation, that I ask for a pause before each gate before proceeding. Excitement to get outside can overflow into frustration if not checked. Razzor will bounce up and down, often landing on top of Ryder which can turn into a small scuffle. By waiting a few seconds at each gate, we keep peace in the family and we avoid scuffles. These are not rigid sit Waits, a nice standing Wait will insure a slight pause, after which they proceed to the door quickly to run and play outside.

You, Too, Can Train a Wait

I know you are thinking “Yeah, well she’s a trainer, so of course her dogs wait politely.” Don’t despair; you too can learn to train your dog to have good manners. The trainers at Cold Nose College are happy to help and soon we’ll be announcing further information on the Day Camp and Camp and Train services at Camp Happy Dog.

As I write this about my dog’s wait and pause, I’m also thinking about how I need to pause before embarking on an adventure. I realize I need to incorporate more wait time, more pauses in my own life. Too often we humans are in such a rush that a short “wait” would benefit us greatly. We cue our dogs to pause before calmly proceeding to the next step and perhaps we should do this ourselves?

Why not make this New Year calmer and less chaotic for you and your dog by incorporating a pause to breathe? Wait is an important cue for our beloved dogs and may also be a great cue for us humans as well.

Kay Mizell is a Pat Miller Level 1 dog trainer, a certified Dog*tec dog-walker and professional pet-sitter.  She is trained in pet first aid and carries the designated Pet-Tech First Aid/Canine CPR caregiver. Kay is also a dog trainer-volunteer working with detainees and their foster dogs with the “Rescued Program” at the Colwell Probation Detention Center in Blairsville, GA.   She continues to seek out and attend educational workshops, seminars and conferences in all things “dog” with a singular focus on making Camp Happy Dogs the safest, happiest and most loving “home-away-from-home” for your dog.

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