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Why Teaching “Wait” is Useful

When a dog sees something that they want, it makes sense to go and get it. And if it looks good, why not go as quickly as possible? It’s common for our dogs to bolt out of an open door, jump up on guests or want to run down a hill on a hike. Many things that dogs do can be altered by teaching a “Wait” cue. Whenever applicable, it’s nice to be able to ask a dog to hold back for a couple seconds before giving access to whatever is motivating the dog in the moment. For example, when the front door opens, instead of bolting out as quickly as possible, we can ask our dogs to wait while we get the door open. The cool thing about “wait” is that the reward is always built right into the environment. Wait, and then you get to greet the person. Wait, and then you get to exit the car to go into the dog park.

How to teach it: Bring your dog to the door on leash and say, “wait,”and then crack the door open. If they try to go, close the door and say, “too bad.” Repeat. After a handful of attempts you’ll see your dog hold themself back when the door cracks open. When this happens, say, “yes!” and then give them access to the outdoors as the reward. After doing this for a couple of days it’ll go faster and faster and you’ll be able to open the door wider and wider. You can also do this when exiting the car by following a similar system. Again, once your dog figures out that the fastest path to the reward is to actually wait a moment, you’ll see it happen more and more. It’s also a good idea to keep “wait” and “stay” as two separate behaviors. “Stay” can mean that you’ll return to your dog and “wait” can mean that your dog is going to get access to that thing. This can keep your dog relaxed when staying.

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