Many dog problems arise from one main issue—lack of impulse control. Your dog sees another dog across the street, leftover dinner on the table, a squirrel running up the tree, or a child tossing a ball at the park, and he MUST HAVE IT. Whether your dog is pulling, jumping, or grabbing what’s not his, it’s embarrassing and potentially dangerous.
Teaching your dog or puppy to “wait” will prevent a trip to the emergency room because he devoured a chocolate bar from your purse or chased a critter into a busy street, pulling you along with him.
Here’s how to teach your dog to pause when he wants something.
STEP ONE: Start with the most boring treat possible. If the treat is only mildly appealing, your dog will more likely understand that “wait” means wait. Hold the treat over your dog’s head and if he’s not jumping, not barking, and not grabbing the treat from your hand, say “yes” and give your dog the cookie. Repeat the exercise using the same treat a few more times.
STEP TWO: Use a more appealing treat OR ask your dog to wait longer for the same treat. For dogs to succeed, you can’t increase two aspects of difficulty at the same time. You’ll confuse your poor pup. By increasing the value of the treat separately from requiring a longer “wait” time, your dog will understand what you want MUCH quicker. Repeat this step every day for at least a few days.
STEP THREE: Ask your dog to “wait” for everything he likes: walks, food, couch time, toys, and play. If your dog loves walks and jumps around like a wackadoo when you’re trying to get outside, don’t wait until you’re opening the door to ask for a “wait.” Give the cue as you walk towards the door, “yes” and grab the leash if he’s still calm (this may mean kinda sorta composed, tranquility takes time for some dogs). Grab your keys if he’s not jumping around. Say “yes” and place your hand on the doorknob if he’s not squealing and nipping your arms. To your dog, every movement you make indicates he’s going outside. Use your interactions to encourage good behavior, and you’ll not only have a better behaved dog, but you’ll use less treats teaching him to be a good boy.
Avoid common mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends show off their dog’s best trick by placing a treat on the ground and saying “leave it, leave it, leave it.” Then, they tell their dog “ok” while I stand there wondering how confusing it must be for the dog. First, the treat was forbidden, then the treat wasn’t forbidden.
Use “leave it” for items that are always off limits, and “wait” for permitted items.
The second issue I commonly see is folks practice “wait” with treats and food but not with other life rewards. If you’re not practicing “wait” at the door, your dog is not going to learn to calmly, patiently wait at the door. If your dog is too excited or you lack the patience to train “wait” at the door, practice AFTER a walk or playtime in the backyard. If your dog is tired, he’ll be more likely to await instruction before walking through the door—saving time and frustration.
The last unwritten rule: Don’t make your dog work for something he hates. If you have a hard time getting your dog to eat, it doesn’t make sense having him “wait” for dinner. You’ll only add social pressure to a situation where your dog is already struggling. Your time is better spent placing his toys in a closet and having him “wait” before you initiate a tug or fetch game. And, remember “wait” is not “sit.”
You’re looking for calm, polite behavior before you give your dog what he wants. If you practice “wait” throughout the day, your dog will learn patience, even when he sees something he REALLY wants.