The Importance of "Wait"

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The Importance Of Wait

There will be times in the future when you see a danger that your dog is oblivious too, running into the path of a vehicle, not anticipating the fall that will ensue if he jumps over an obstacle. This is arguably the most vital of all commands for your dog to learn. It’s a real live saver. It also makes life so much cleaner for you. The dog trained to “wait” doesn’t just wait to go through a doorway or jump out of the car. He will “wait” before charging through mud or going for a swim in the Serpentine.

Teaching The Command “Wait” And “Stay”

The third command in the sequence is “Stay” or “Wait”. This command is vital for a dog’s future safety and is simply a prolonged variation of “Sit”. After you’ve trained your dog to “Sit” for a food reward, then “Sit” for just verbal praise, graduate to “Stay”, reinforcing the command with your chosen hand signal.

  • Ensure your dog’s head is up, looking at your face. Don’t stand too close. You don’t want him or her looking up vertically.
  • After it sits, show the palm of your hand while you command “Stay”.
  • Initially keep the duration of the “Sit-Stay” short then calmly give a small food reward.
  • Gradually increase the duration of the “Stay”, also graduating to the command word alone without the food treat.
  • Over a period of a week, repeat the exercise, gradually backing up until you are giving the command at a distance. Complete the “Stay” by introducing a release word “Finished”. Then reward your dog

Try training with your dog sitting at the base of a wall. That keeps it from sliding backwards. If your dog doesn’t respond properly or does something wrong, avoid the word “No”. Save that for more serious misdemeanours. Introduce a neutral word when she doesn’t get it right. We like “Wrong”. If, for example she rolls on her back, say “Wrong”, stand up and induce her back into a “Sit” position. Avoid an abundance of praise after releasing your dog from “Stay”. Too much praise on your part winds him or her up and teaches it to jump around and be exuberant at the end of a training session. Keep your praise muted.

Never try “Stay” training in situations where your dog finds it difficult to concentrate on what you’re doing. If it’s worried about the presence of other dogs or more interested in investigating other activities its mind is elsewhere. During each short training session you want its rapt attention.

"Stay" should come to mean to your dog that you will return to it, not that it has is to come to you. While it is learning the stay exercise, do not call him or her out of the stay, always return to your dog.

If your dog moves, it has done nothing wrong.  Simply quietly replace him or her and shorten the distance between you until it gains the confidence that you will return.

Never rush teaching ‘stay’.  Dogs should become really steady before you significantly add distance between you.

Start teaching the stay when you dog is full of food or tired not when it is dying for a game.

The Release Word

The “wait” command is always followed by either another obedience command such as “Come, Sit, or Down” or your release word (“OK” or "Let's go") that signals your dog that it can continue doing what it was doing before you told it to “wait”. In essence what’s happening here is your dog is starting to learn a chain of commands, to do one thing for you, then another. This is the basis of the enjoyable games it’ll learn to play with you, where it strings together a selection of learned behaviours such as waiting until you throw a toy, then running after it, picking it up, carrying it back and dropping it at your feet. (Bruce’s retriever Bean does this almost without training. Suzi’s Daphne also retrieves naturally while Beatrice feels it’s beneath her to do such things.)

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