Introduce Waiting at a Boundary
• To teach your dog to wait at a boundary (e.g. a doorway, a gate threshold, or inside a car) until given a cue for release.
Lay the Foundation:
1. Set up a visual boundary by stretching a rope in a straight line or taping a line on the floor (at home you can use an actual internal doorway).
2. With your dog on leash, walk up to the boundary. Stop on the inside of the boundary, click/say ”yes” and place a treat on the ground on the inside of the boundary. Whilst your dog is eating that treat, you (not your dog) step across the boundary, immediately click and place the treat on the ground on the inside of the boundary. Take another small step whilst your dog is eating the second treat, click/say “yes” and again toss the treat on the floor inside the boundary. Three clicks, three treats.
3. Repeat Step 2 five more times, or until your dog is hesitating on the inside of the boundary.
4. Introduce the cue “wait”, and when your dog hesitates, CT. Repeat another 5 times.
5. Now say “wait” and drop the leash as you cross the boundary. CT if your dog stays on the inside of the boundary.
6. Instead of doing the third click, replace it with a release word such as “okay” or “let’s go” that will cause the dog to cross the boundary to join you. Reinforce with a treat. If needed, you can also wave your arm in a “come and join me” fashion.
• Practice wait during daily activities such as going through doors, getting in and out of a car, before putting down the food bowl, at a sidewalk curb, etc.
• Wait does NOT involve asking your dog to sit or down at the boundary. The position your dog is in does not matter; he simply has to stop all forward movement.
Introduce Distractions to the Wait
• To continue building the dog’s self-control by introducing mild distractions to the training environment.
1. Begin with a quick warm-up from Level 1.
2. Repeat, but do not click (or say “yes”) when your dog waits at the boundary, but rather release him with your release word “okay”. Deliver a treat to your dog’s mouth when he crosses the boundary with you.
3. Finally, introduce some distractions, such as a tossed toy or a person standing on the other side of the boundary. Cue “wait” and when the dog hesitates for a few seconds, release and reinforce with a treat or access to the distraction.
4. Keep reinforcing the wait too: Sometimes in those seconds of hesitation, go back and hand deliver a treat to his mouth to tell him what a good boy he is for waiting.
• In this level, clicks (“Yes”) are not needed. Rather, the release cue “okay”/”let’s go” is used to let the dog know that he can cross the boundary. Besides treats, you can also use the distractions (access to a visitor, play with a toy) as reinforcers when the dog waits and responds to the cross-the-boundary “okay” cue.
• Periodically reinforce the wait with a treat on the inside of the boundary. If your dog is anticipating the release cue and getting reinforced only on the outside of the boundary, then his waiting at the boundary will tend to become shorter and he will release himself before you can do so. If that happens, remind him of Level 1 again.
Introduce Real Life Distractions
• To use “wait” in real life. Practice at outside doorways (at home, at shops, at the vet, at friend’s homes).
1. Stand next to the dog on the inside of a doorway that leads to the outside. The door should be closed. Cue “wait” and open the door a crack (one or two inches). When the dog hesitates and/or looks at you, release with an “okay” and cross the boundary with your dog. Reinforce with a treat and/or play or a walk.
2. Continue practicing, opening the door an inch or two more, until the dog will respond to the “wait” cue cue when the door is wide open. Release with “okay” and reinforce.
• Make sure that you practice in small enough increments that the dog is not tempted to ignore the boundary by bolting through the door or jumping out of the car the instant the door opens. For safety, use a leash until your dog is reliably responding to the “wait” cue. Keep the leash loose, it is just for safety, and not to hold the dog back.