There are three things I have learned since getting Luna that I wish someone would have taught me in our early days. Place, touch, and wait. We've picked up each of them at different times and from several people. Now I consider them essential for a well-trained dog. I introduce them in puppy class and offer them as solutions to friends and coworkers. Because they are a foundation for Trick Dog I have a planned post for each of them, but wanted to start with wait.
Wait and stay are similar commands, yet vastly different. With stay you are asking your dog to remain in the exact place and position you have left them. Sit/stay, means to sit where you are until I come back. That doesn't mean down, and it doesn't mean moving forward to see how much ground you can steal before I turn around. This isn't baseball. Stay is serious business because it could save your dog’s life.
Stay also doesn't mean I am going to call you to me.
If you are an experienced dog owner, you may have just reread that sentence. Maybe you stared at it in disbelief. It comes off a little crazy, right? What do you mean, you can't call your dog to you from a stay? Remember, stay isn't voluntary or conditional. Stay means you remain exactly where you are until I come back. Which means if you are calling your dog to you you are breaking down the strength of the command.
Now, hopefully, you've accepted that the idea of not calling your dog from a stay isn’t crazy. Or at least are open minded enough to keep reading. Because this is where wait comes in.
Wait is simple in principle. It means wait for my next command. On a sit/wait I will leave Luna, walk out 5/10/15 feet and call her to me. Wait also means she will remain still while I balance a toy or treat on her nose. In essence, it is letting your dog know there is another command coming. And they should be attentive and ready for it. A good wait, especially during tricks, will leave them completely still.
And as a bonus it helps you take amazing, crisp photos.
Since wait is all around and used at different times, there are multiple ways to introduce it to your dog. I’ve outlined a few below to get you started.
Before teaching wait select a release word such as okay. This will “free” them even if you haven't given them the next command. Again, think of the treat on her nose, she has to know when it can be eaten.
Get a handful of treats ready and find a quiet place without distractions. I recommend using something they enjoy, but nothing they go crazy for.
Over time progress to longer intervals and move the treat to a different area. Your knee, foot, the floor, and your dog’s paw. Replace it with a favorite toy or ball. This will take multiple training sessions, but is something you can quickly do once or twice a day.
I use the command take it when offering the treat/toy from my palm and okay at all other times. This is because later tricks require your dog to take an item from you and hold it. I had to retrain my dogs to take items and found this was the easiest exercise to do so.
Have your dog sit next to you, holding their collar. Roll a ball or toss a toy a few feet in front of them, saying wait as you release the object. Wait a few seconds and say okay before letting them go. Your goal is for them to sit on their own without having you hold them.
Day to Day Activities
I use wait when going through doorways and feeding my dogs (they are also expected to sit). Anytime I need their attention but am not ready for a responding action wait works wonders.
Now as mentioned above this only applies if you are not returning to your dog, but calling them to you. You can begin using this principle no matter how far along you are in training stay. For dogs that already know the command it is easiest to transition them if you are using a hand signal. I use a flat palm facing my dog's’ nose for both wait and stay, with a different verbal queue. Some trainers I know have chosen to use two signals. They hold their hands at a different angle. But I only use a hand signal during this scenario of wait and have kept it the same.
Once you have solidified wait you can practice by switching your routine up. Walk briskly away from your dog, come back and circle your dog, or leave them at an angle. The possibilities are endless, but make sure you advance to using both wait and stay when appropriate.
Have a unique way you taught wait or tips to share with others? Give us a bark back in the comments below.
Lisa (and Luna)