Pet Travel. Made Easy.

Training Your Dog to Wait

This is the second in a series of pet travel training guest posts by Eric Goebelbecker of DogSpelledForward

After building a solid foundation of attention and eye contact, it’s time to start to developing impulse control. Impulse control doesn’t come naturally to most dogs. Being opportunistic scavengers by nature, their impulse is usually to grab things when they have the chance.

The behavior that epitomizes impulse control is Wait. Wait is exactly what the name implies: waiting for a release before advancing or taking something. Many people already use this exercise at mealtimes, but it is a behavior that can be used for other purposes. For example, teaching your dog to wait before passing through a doorway, going down stairs, or exiting the car can be not only more pleasant for you, but also more safe for your dog – especially when traveling in new places.

It’s important to be sure that your dog does not move until she hears your release. It’s also good to get in the habit of only releasing your dog when her attention is on you – so part of the training is you waiting for her eye contact before you release. You’ll see this in the video.

In this video below I use a pair of traffic cones to demonstrate training Gage how to wait at a doorway. Note how I only release him when he is looking at me … and then I reward him for his attention and eye contact after we pass through the door. Attention is a big part of this exercise.

  1. Start with a brief moment of hesitation at the “door.”
  2. Pivot in front of your dog and add a bit more duration. (Gage doesn’t try to get past me. If your dog tries, block her way like a soccer goalie.)
  3. Continue to pivot and then add a few steps backward before the release.
  4. Get rid of the pivot.

Don’t get in the habit of using the leash to stop your dog. Use your body to block her and/or occupy space. In doing this, you can convey what you want your dog to do without using the leash or even touching her.

After you have mastered doorways, you can start to generalize wait to a variety of situations: other thresholds like stairs and cars … and other situations such as with treats and food bowls. I like to think of wait as the “swiss army knife” of dog training.

Next, we’ll work on another useful impulse control exercise.

Eric owns and runs Dog Spelled Forward dog training in Maywood, NJ. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA).

  • njdogtraining says:

    It always seems that the basics are where the problems come in. This is such a simple exercise that is going to make a huge difference in every dog and pet owner’s life (especially if you have yourself a big dog or multiple dogs that don’t like waiting). Good fortune to all of those looking to teach their dogs some manners and a few new cool tricks!

  • Mary Haight says:

    Another great post..these basics are so important. As you mentioned, it great not having dogs push their way out of the car, possibly putting themselves in harms way.

    Of course *my* dog wouldn't do that–he's a very good boy! I use “wait” when we're getting out of the car and he is antsy, but does it. If I drop some food on the kitchen floor, he always looks at me first, and I just say no, or “not for dogs” followed by good boy as I'm picking up whatever. Sometimes if I've scared myself, like dropping a piece of onion or something horrible, he'll get a bit of treat for being a good dog. After I've washed my hands;-) Thanks for all the good info!

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