Wait – It Might Save Your Dog’s Life

Does your dog run out an open door the second he gets the opportunity? Or does your dog pull you out the door when it’s time for his daily walk or outside potty break? If so, it’s time to teach a simple cue that might even save your dog’s life. By teaching your dog to pause at the doorway with a “wait” cue, you will be teaching your dog manners. A simple pause at the doorway helps to teach your dog impulse control so that he learns that to get what he wants, he must be polite and exercise a bit of self-control and manners. You can use it when you are opening the door to retrieve mail or when your dog potties on a walk and you must pick it up. Wait is quite simply just a pause in forward motion. (Stay means to actually hold a position like sit.)

Another benefit of teaching wait can be a more enjoyable walk with your dog. One of the most common behavioral problems in dogs is called leash reactivity, which is when a dog becomes overly aroused when seeing another dog or a person. Getting some control before you ever leave the house by having your dog pause at the doorway and go out for a walk in a calm state can set the tone for entire walk.

Wait is a very simple and useful cue to teach your dog. Here’s what to do:

  1. Put your dog on a LOOSE leash and walk towards the door. Cue the dog to wait, and open the door about three inches. If the dog moves forward, immediately close the door.
  2. When the dog backs up, open the door.
  3. Repeat until the dog pauses and checks in with you with a pause and/or eye contact.
  4. Once the dog has paused, release the dog with an “OK” and proceed through the doorway. No treats are needed. This is what we call a life reward, because the dog gets to go outside.

NOTE: Use the door to show the dog what you want, NOT by pulling on his leash. Let your dog think. Allowing your dog to problem solve is an extremely effective way for your dog to learn. Once your dog is successfully waiting, you can raise the criteria by adding distractions such as asking your dog to wait when there is a person at the door or when you throw his favorite toy out the door.

If your dog does run out the door every time he has the opportunity, you may need to address an underlying reason for this behavior. Dogs that live in a sensory-deprived environment often will run out for some excitement every chance they get. Adding some mental stimulation daily through food toys, frozen Kongs, and food hunting games will make home more exciting for your canine companion. Ensuring your dog gets regular walks is also a way to prevent a dog that escapes to the outside world every chance he gets. Last but not least, if your dog’s behavior causes the family or even the entire neighborhood to engage in a fun game of chase, then he’s being rewarded for darting out the door.

If your dog does get out an open door and get lost, there is a wonderful nonprofit organization called Lost Dogs of Wisconsin (http://lostdogsofwisconsin.org/) on Facebook that is dedicated to helping owners reunite with their lost dogs.

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