Continuing on from my last post… Now that your dog understands the basics of the wait behavior it’s time to try using it at a door that opens to the outdoors. If you have a fenced yard, use a door that accesses it for added safety.
Set your dog up for success. As you may recall from earlier blogs, I’ve mentioned that dogs do not generalize well. What this means is that while your dog may completely understand “wait” as it relates to the doorway you’ve been practicing at i.e. between the kitchen and the family room, he may not automatically understand that the same behavior applies when the “wait” cue is given at a doorway opening to the outside. As a result a little additional training may be needed.
Set up for success:
- Exercise — If your dog is young and full of energy, you’ll want to make sure he has been well exercised before you start this new step in his training. (The anticipation of having access to the outdoors can be very stimulating to many dogs.)
- Practice — Bring your dog to the inside doorway where they’ve been practicing up until now and get one or two successfully cued “waits” before you move to the outside doorway.
- Leash — Continue to practice with your dog on leash, just in case!
- Treats — Have some training treats strategically placed near the outside doorway for rewarding good behavior, but not so close that they are a distraction from the exercise.
Wait at an outside doorway (door opens into the room where you are standing)
Walk your dog up to the doorway on leash. Ask your dog to sit just to the side of the threshold. If the door opens from left to right your dog will sit just to the left of the doorway. Cue your dog to wait (and use your hand signal if you have one). Reach for the door handle. If your dog does not move give him some nice gentle praise and re-cue the wait. If he does move, reposition him and repeat.
After you’ve re-cued the wait, open the door about 2 inches; leave it open for about 3 seconds. If your dog successfully holds his sit, shut the door, release your dog from the wait, and go get and give him a treat. If your dog got up re-start the whole exercise.
Assuming your dog was successful, the next time you open the door you will open it about a foot.
Cue the sit/wait and open the door about a foot wide. If your dog starts to get up you will move your body in front of him to block his motion and simultaneously close the door. Re-cue the sit & wait and repeat the exercise.
If your dog successfully holds his wait for 5 – 10 seconds at the open door you can release him and let him go outside — that’s his reward. Don’t let the release/reward be too exciting as this could make your next attempt at wait more challenging for your dog.
Gradually, in 3 to 5 second increments, you will increase the amount of time your dog holds his wait while the door is open in front of him. You will work to getting at least a 30 second wait before you even consider trying the exercise off leash.
Wait at an outside doorway (door opens out away from the room where you are standing)
You will train this the same way as indicated above, however, note that your body will automatically be in a position to help block your dog’s forward movement, should he get up prematurely from his wait sit.
Now that your dog understands “wait” you should be able to bring in groceries or hold the door for entering guests without fear that your dog will make a mad dash for the outdoors.
Good luck 🙂
This installment in my impulse control training series involves teaching the dog to wait at the doorway — the exercise involves a sit and the dog may self-release after a short duration. As mentioned previously, it is often helpful to train an incompatible behavior in order to eliminate/reduce the occurrence of an undesirable behavior. In this instance by training the dog to wait at a doorway the dog is not then able to:
- escape from the house
- jump on approaching guests
- knock over a child or fragile adult
Wait can also be used effectively to ask your dog to hold position while you:
- walk down a flight of stairs
- open his crate door (in the house or in the car)
- anytime his movement could jeopardize his or your safety
Initial training should be conducted at an inside doorway, so there’s no chance of your dog escaping while he learns this new behavior.
Training — wait at the doorway
Unlike stay, wait simply means pause for a moment. Use it mostly at doorways, stairs, gates, in and out of the house and car. It is easy to teach and takes very little practice, but does require consistent application of the behavior when the stimulus (opening the door) is presented. Do your early training at home and gradually progress to other locations.
- Start by using an inside doorway
- Do not have any food in your hands
- Have your dog on leash. (Note: You won’t be using the leash for anything except to make sure your dog doesn’t leave the training area.)
- Walk up to the doorway with your dog at your side.
- Get him to sit.
- Verbally ask him to “wait” and give a hand-signal (I use the same hand-signal as STAY). The hand-signal I use is a flat hand, palm facing the dog, fingers parallel to the ground, presented at the dog’s eye level.
- Pivot your body in front of the dog so that you are now facing each other.
- You take one step backward (now your dog should be in one room and you in another, with the doorway between you). If your dog gets up and moves toward you as you move, just lightly walk into him, using your body as a block (do not use your leash to restrain him). Re-cue the “sit” and “wait” and take 1 step backward.
- Don’t ask him to hold the wait too long — just a second or two at first.
- Make sure your dog does not anticipate (get up before you release him). If he does you need to re-cue the behavior again.
When you first start out you may only get a 1 or 2 second “wait”. That’s fine. You are developing the building blocks of the behavior. When your dog is holding his sit you will mark the behavior (reference: https://tailsfromthetrainingcenter.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/positive-reinforcement-training-and-using-a-marker/)
release your dog (before he gets up on his own) and give him a treat or a life reward — like getting a chance to go outside.
Gradually you will work to having duration of 20 – 30 seconds on your wait. You want to have enough time to comfortably get out the door in real life.
In the next installment I’ll review how to train “wait” at an outside doorway.
Good luck 🙂