I Said Wait

Written and submitted by Ms Dany Canino

“Wait” is a very useful command because it can be taught at a very early age and it can be repeated for emphasis. This is not a command that will ever be used when you´re working your dog in obedience and therefore you won´t run the risk of confusing your dog between the word “wait” (a command you can repeat) and “Stay” (a command you should never repeat). Another beneficial factor of using this command is that the dog is not required to hold steady in a particular position, whereas, when using the command to stay the dog will be required to hold whatever position you commanded him into.

This word can be introduced to puppies as early as 9-10 weeks of age. The following text is a “how to” of getting started on using this command.

Put a collar (preferably choke chain; properly put on) on the puppy and a leash of approximately 6 feet. You and dog start towards the front door that has been pre-opened. As you reach the door tell the dog to “Wait”! Proceed to step forward through the door (don´t forget to let the slack out on the leash) and if the dog advances to go with you, pull back slightly on the leash (back, not up, we only require the dog to wait, not sit) as you firmly say to the dog, “…I said Wait”. If this is a very young, small puppy, you can push him back at his chest instead of using the leash correction. This works almost instantly. Rarely do you have to repeat this a 3rd time, but if you do, be even more emphatic when you say it.

After the command is given, step outside. Remember to keep the leash totally slack. Don´t let it tighten or you´ll confuse the dog. In the beginning you should wait outside the door for about 20 seconds. You then have two choices:

  • You can step back inside and praise the dog for a job well done.
  • You can pick a “cue” word that tells the dog that from now on he is only allowed to cross this threshold when he hears that “cue” word.

You must pick a word that the entire family will use. It means that every time they want to take the dog out, this word must be given at the door. If everybody uses a different word the dog will be confused and will soon start darting out the door because of a lack of consistency.

The cue word does not have to be particularly “doggie”. I´ve had clients that use the word “green”. I´ve had clients that use the word “okay”. And, I´ve had clients that chose to use a foreign language word. The choice is open to you but once again, make sure that all family members use this word too.

You should practice this about 3 times per day at varying times and at any door that could lead the dog into “harm´s way”. This is usually the front door. Be sure to have other adult members of the household try this too. Remember, we want the dog to respond to all family members. As you experience more reliability from your dog you can then allow the younger members of your family (not too young please) to try this.

REMEMBER THAT “WAIT” SIMPLY MEANS “DO NOT GO FORWARD”. THE DOG IS NOT REQUIRED TO SIT OR LIE DOWN WHEN THIS COMMAND IS GIVEN. HE CAN STAND, SIT, OR LIE DOWN. HE JUST CAN´T CROSS THE THRESHOLD UNTIL HE HEARS THE “CUE” WORD FROM YOU.

A word about the “I Said Wait” corrective phrase. You need to let the dog know how disturbed you are with him for disobeying your command. The best way to correlate the emphasis of this correction is to remember when you were very young and your mother told you to perform a simple task. You got distracted and didn´t do what she said and when your mom came back she said, “Sarah Jane Mitchell I told you to…….”. When your mother used all 3 of your names, you knew by this that you had made a very big mistake and were probably going to be punished. It´s this voice anger you need to use when correcting your dog on this exercise.

If you´re at the point where you want to call the dog out of the door, you should inter-mix this; calling the dog through the door to you and going back to the dog for him to fully understand what responsibility goes with this command.

Also use this command with the dog facing inside the house from the backyard. This way he´ll learn not to charge into the house like a bull in Spain. You can also use this command at the threshold of a particular room that you might (perhaps) never want the dog to go into. If you do, remember to not call the dog into that room ever! If you have stairs use this command every time the dog and someone else is going to descend or ascend the stairs. This way the dog can never be guilty of knocking some child, or adult, over.

After one week of testing this command at the front door, you need to extend the time (1 minute at the end of this week) and the distance (approximately 15 feet) from where you told the dog to wait. Then about midweek of practicing this you need to make yourself disappear from the dog´s sight. By that I mean you need to step around behind a bush or the side of the house.

REMEMBER, WHEN YOU FIRST START TO PRACTICE THIS OUT OF SIGHT “WAIT” YOU SHOULD ONLY STAY ABOUT 20 SECONDS BEFORE YOU GO BACK TO THE DOG, DON´T CALL THE DOG THROUGH THE DOORWAY. MAKE HIM LEARN THAT HE ALWAYS HAS TO WAIT “INSIDE”. IF YOU WANT HIM TO COME OUTSIDE, GO BACK TO WHERE HE CAN SEE YOU BEFORE ALLOWING HIM TO COME OUTSIDE. YOU CAN INCREASE THIS TIME, AS HE GETS MORE RELIABLE.

Use this “wait” command when you need to take the dog with you in the car. As you open the car door tell the dog to “wait” (you probably no longer have to give that slight tug back on the leash). Open the car door and wait a few seconds. Then tell the dog: “OK” “Get In” – “Load Up” – “Get In The Car”, whatever command you want to use, but be consistent. Use the same technique when you reach your destination. Before you open the car door, tell the dog to “wait”. Open the door and if he tries to jump out, be prepared to forcefully shove him back into the car as you say, “…I said wait”. You should then make him wait for about 10-20 seconds. Then call him out of the car by telling him, “OK” – ” out of the car” – “unload” . Again you can make the choice of command, but remember, even if you choose to use a foreign language word be sure you use it every time.

The uses for this command are endless. How nice to have a dog that, when you are coming home with an arm full of groceries, you can give your dog this command and enter your door with the confidence that your groceries won´t end up on the floor instead of the refrigerator. It will certainly make all your efforts worthwhile.

With each new situation where you don´t want the dog to advance forward until you give the “special command” you should slowly increase the responsible time and distance with the dog.

If you are diligent with this, it really won´t be long before you can start to add distractions to test the dog´s reliability. Start by having the dog on a 15 foot line. Again telling him to “wait” at the door. Go out of the dog´s sight, but not so far that you couldn´t get back to him quickly should you need to make a correction. Pre-arrange with a friend to walk past your open door with their dog so that your dog might be enticed by this sight to run out to the distraction. If your dog passes the threshold without having been given the “release” command, you need to fly to where the dog is and practically t
hrow him back across the threshold as you roar, “I SAID WAIT”!!! You´d be surprised how effective this “surprise attack” will be to ensure reliability in your dog.

After this test is accomplished a few different times with different distractions, it won´t be long before you can remove the leash to test the dog´s reliability to “wait” when and where he´s told to until he´s been told otherwise.

It is absolutely gratifying to see pups as young as 10 weeks waiting at an open door until they hear that special command to advance forward or, until the master returns to them to relieve them of this responsibility. In a short period of time you can comfortably open your front door as you tell your dog to “wait” and then you can go out to your mailbox or visit with a friend in front of your house. All the time being comfortable with the knowledge that because you took the time to teach your dog that he can´t leave your house without your approval he won´t go through the doorway.

One very important thing to remember about teaching this command or any other command: ALWAYS REMEMBER TO PRAISE YOUR DOG FOR THE WORK HE´S DOING AND FOR HIS RELIABILITY IN ANYTHING YOU´VE TAUGHT HIM. PRAISE IS THE ONLY PAYCHECK YOUR DOG GETS FOR A JOB WELL DONE, SO DON´T FORGET TO USE IT A LOT!

Reprinted with permission

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