Throughout the process of training and living with your dog, you will find that some commands seem more practical than others. They seem to fit a lot of different situations and because of this, are used more than some. A few might even have the capacity to save your dogs life. In my estimation, one of these important commands is the word “wait.” Wait can be used to teach your dog not to bolt out the front door, run blindly into the street, or to not jump out of the car when you open the door. In my life with my own dogs, this command is probably used more than any other, whether I say it to them or it is just implied.
So, how do we go about imparting the knowledge that your dog should wait for you to them. It starts of with controlling your environment. Let’s start by establishing our problem area, we’ll use the front door, so your best friend understands that they are not to cross the threshold of that door until you tell them. Put a leash on your dog so you know he can’t get away from you if you are not quick enough. Here we go, Before you open the door, place a flat open hand in front of your dogs eyes and tell him “wait”. Please only say this once, repeating yourself does no good. You will then try to open the door, only a little at first. If your dog moves toward the door tell him “Uh-Uh” and shut the door. Your goal here is to get the door totally open, the leash slack and your dog not bolting across the threshold. When your dog remains behind the door reward him for it by throwing pieces of a treat on his side of the door.
Now, let’s see if you can get through the door by yourself. Turn and face your dog as you back out the door. We are now going to add two more ways that you can “correct” your dog if he starts to cross the doorway. The first is using your body, you can do a body block and step into him as he STARTS to cross (a hint here, don’t wait for him to get across the doorway), when he backs up tell him “Good Wait”. The final correction we may employ is use of the leash. At this point it should be slack in your hands. Again, if your dog starts to cross tell him “Uh-Uh” and use the leash quickly to pull him back onto his side of the line. Remember you are on the other side of the doorway from him. I will usually use these to corrections in conjunction with each other, stepping in towards them and using the leash. A key here is to keep rewarding him when he is making no attempt to cross the line.
A quick note about the actual definition of the “Wait” command. This is not “Stay”. A lot of people get confused about the difference between the two. “Stay”, means I want you to freeze and to not move at all, even from a sit to a down. “Wait” allows your dog to move around anywhere behind the threshold that you have decided on. This is what I consider a backup command to Stay. You are still in control of the situation but there are not as many restrictions for your dog.
So, now your dog is on one side of the door and you are on the other. Now we need to test to see if your teachings have sunk in. This is done by adding distractions and seeing if Bingo remains on his side of the line even with the distractions on your side. Drop some of those same treats you have been rewarding Bingo with into your side of the line. You guessed it, he is not allowed to cross to get these rewards. If he tries to cross simply say “Uh-Uh” and get him back onto his side of the line. When he remains on his own side tell him ”Good Wait” and toss him a cookie.
Now, how does your dog learn that he is allowed to cross that line. We will employ the use of a release word. The release word should be used for only that purpose. To release your dog from what he is doing. I use the words “All Done”. When you first use it your dog may not come across the line because for the past five minutes you have been telling him it was not correct to do so. You may have to bend down and be excited when you say it. Once he crosses to you give him a big hug and reward heavily. Now you two can go out have a big adventure together.
Once you and your dog have a mutual understanding of this important command you should start using it in as many different situations as possible. This will help to cement its importance in your dogs life. Your best friend will even start to figure out that in certain situations (ie. Crossing the street) that he should wait for you even if you haven’t specifically told him to. This command has the ability to save your dogs life so treat it as such and remember that training should be fun for both you and your dog.