2:50 am   

Teaching Your Dog to WAIT

By Robin Tierney

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Adapted from Pat Miller's advice on acting as pack leader through education, not force, in Your Dog (Jan. 2008 issue).

Don't reward pushy or rude behavior when training or anytime you're with your dog. Instead of granting the attention or favor your dog seeks - unless he's trying to alert you that "I have to relieve myself!" - say "Oops!" and ask for a "Sit."

"Wait" is a very useful cue, and here's how to teach it to your dog.

Say "Wait," reach for the door knob, but don't touch it. If he stays in a sit, click the clicker, or say "Yes!", and feed him a treat. Remember, prompt timing is key.

If he gets up, say "Oops!" and ask him to sit again. "Oops!" means "getting up doesn't earn treats." Now reach toward the door. If he keeps sitting, click and treat him for not getting up. Next steps:

* Reach for the door knob. If he stays in a sit, click and treat.
* Touch the door knob. If he stays in a sit, click and treat.
* Jiggle the door knob. If he stays in a sit, click and treat.
* Open the door a crack. If he stays in a sit, click and treat.
* Open the door wider. If he stays in a sit, click and treat.

After several repetitions at each step, he'll probably get it.

There's no need for aggressive, forceful behaviors on your part. Instead, keeping things calm maintains presence of mind for both of you. Wait for, and encourage, your dog to pay attention to you and to offer polite appeasement behaviors, and quickly reward those behaviors - so that he learns that good behavior makes good stuff happen. Don't miss opportunities to reward good behavior, and don't accidentally reward undesirable behavior

Some everyday applications:

* Wait at the door. He waits there until you give permission to move forward (instead of letting him push out ahead of you, which is self-rewarding pushy behavior.

* Wait for dinner. Your dog sits, and waits for your permission, before he eats. Cue him to "Sit" before you put his bowl down.

* Wait to get in the car. Sit and wait at the open door you OK him to enter.

* Wait to get out of the car. Which can be a life-saver.

* Wait before going for a walk. He sits and waits - instead of jumping - before you put on the leash.

* Wait as a way to ask to be petted.

Waiting is a way to "say please" and, in the spirit of No Free Lunch training programs, to earn the good stuff in life. The dog learns that good behavior earns desirable things such as going on walks, and valuable goods like toys and food. Inappropriate behavior, he learns, makes good stuff go away and get delayed.

Miller demonstrates that it's better to get your dog to voluntarily buy into your desired behaviors than to try to force him to obey. After all we're supposedly the more intelligent species.

Resources:

* Helpful Books for Pet People book list at http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Books.php

* The Power of Positive Training, 2nd Edition and Positive Perspectives 2 - Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog - books by Pat Miller

http://www.dogwise.com/SearchResults.cfm?Search=Pat%20Miller&SubSearch=author

* Your Dog, published by Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine. This monthly ad-free newsletter is an excellent resource at $20 a year (http://www.tuftsyourdog.com).

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