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  • Heather McIntosh

Teaching Your Dog Self Control With "Wait" Command



As dog owners, many of us struggle with how to help cultivate self control in our pups. It's natural for dogs to want to be first to investigate, bolt out doorways to get outside, pull ahead down the street to greet another dog or person etc. One very easy and necessary piece of vocabulary every dog should know, is wait.

Wait just simply means to "stop your forward progress" and look to the handler for further instruction. While working with board and train dogs, it is the FIRST word they learn. As I leash them up and lead them to their first lesson, we always have to pass through some doorway or thresh-hold, and we immediately start lesson #1. I don't want to have the dog blasting through the doorway, or past my legs and ahead of me, I want them to have manners and be polite and look to me for instruction.

As with any training routine, keep your time short and sweet, and make the interaction as positive and upbeat as possible. Always end on a good note! Get a good response and stop that lesson, leaving the correct behavior response fresh in their mind , so you can pick up where you left off later. Have a quality treat on hand--I like string cheese, but bits of hot dog or quality treat from your pet store, even bits of their own kibble are suffice if they love it . Note: When #dogtraining, keep treats small and relatively soft. Think kibble sized treats like liver treats or small pieces of string cheese.

Always have a leash on your dog for training routines, so you have a way to redirect and keep their interest. No bolting!

Teaching Wait:


1. Use a doorway or other narrow passage, as walls and doors are your friend.

2. When approaching the doorway, slow your step, and if there is a closed door, slowly begin to open it and insert the word "wait".

  • If the dog proceeds to nose into it, use the door and close it (careful not to injure them) while using the word "no". They will generally step back and look up at you. Open the door then slowly try the process again, and be sure to watch and see if they hesitate this time, IN that hesitation, praise them with the words "good wait!" Slowly open the door further, and if they try to press through again, close it.

3. When your dog does not rush the threshold and you can get the door mostly opened and position your body in the gap, facing your dog give them a treat and be very sure to praise them verbally with the words "good wait!"

4. Once the door is open, and your body is in the doorway, you can use your legs as a "body block" if your dog tries them to blow past. If they stand patiently and hold, big praises and treats!


5. To release them to pass through, I use the word "ok", and then proceed to walk together through the doorway.

Baby step this process to "proofing". Once they are getting the idea, start to create gaps between your body and the door by stepping to the side or backwards a step. If they try to blow past then, quickly step back into place, using your body block, and "no". Again once holding the wait, praising and treating the behavior. Increase the time of the wait, you will notice your dog will start to automatically wait when passing through doorways .

The process is similar if there is no door, but you would use body blocking techniques to keep your dog from blowing past. Once the waiting at doorways is mastered, it can then be applied to specific obedience commands like sit/wait ... down/wait... wait while on a walk so they don't pull you down the road or if they (much later) become off-leash savy, stop in their tracks for you to catch up. It becomes a universal command for halting forward until released otherwise (with using the word "ok" to release).


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