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 🙂
There are a number of exercises you can practice and behaviors you can train to help lower your dog’s arousal level and strengthen their abilities for self-control. The “watch” behavior is an excellent example. It is relatively easy to teach, however, watch needs to be practiced and reinforced a great deal, initially with no or low distractions, in order for it to be successful out in the world when you need it most. In this post I will outline how to teach watch, practice it, and apply it to everyday life.
Using the “watch” behavior can be very useful, especially if you are dealing an adolescent or reactive dog. When a dog learns to look at his handler (directly) on cue it means the dog is no longer looking at another object (stimulus) that might cause him to get aroused. By using an incompatible behavior, watching you, your dog cannot also be staring at something he’s prone to react to.
TEACHING THE “WATCH”
In a non-distracting environment, no other dogs or activities going on take a very yummy treat and hold it right up to your dog’s nose. Before he grabs for it raise the treat up to your nose and pause for a moment or two. As long as your dog looks toward your face mark the behavior (with a click or “yes”) and give the treat to your dog. Note: you should not move your hand until after you have marked the behavior! You can use verbal praise as you deliver the treat.
You will not be adding the word “watch” yet, because your dog doesn’t understand the behavior, so the word would not have meaning or context.
If you are wondering why you would mark the behavior of looking at your face vs. looking in your eyes it’s because some dogs are not comfortable offering direct eye contact. This is because direct eye contact can be confrontational, especially in dog-to-dog interactions. You will want to pace your training based on your dog’s confidence and comfort level with the exercise.
As your dog gets more comfortable looking directly at you, gradually extend the amount of time your dog holds your gaze before you mark the behavior i.e. count to three and then mark the behavior and give the treat. If your dog looks away before the full count to three just say “oops” and restart the behavior. Now that your dog is looking in your eyes you can add the verbal cue “watch”. To introduce the word you will say it just before you present the treat in front of your dog’s nose.
Once your dog is consistently looking at you when you raise the treat to your nose, you can make the exercise harder by using both hands. Have a treat in each hand, place both hands/treats at your dog’s nose, then raise both hands to your nose, and now separate your hands to the left and right. Your dog may look from left to right (or vice versa), the moment your dog looks in your eyes, even for a nanosecond, mark the behavior and give the treat. This will help him understand that it’s eye contact you are looking for.
Practice this for several days in a non-distracting environment and reinforce generously every time your dog looks at you when you say “watch”. Try to make it into a fun game. When your dog’s just hanging out and not paying any attention to you say “Dog’s name watch” and mark the moment he turns his head toward you and shower him with treats, praise and/or have an unexpected play session.
Now that your dog understands how rewarding it is to look at you when you say “watch” it’s time to start using it in the real world. For our example we’ll assume the dog’s issue is a desire to chase cars as they drive by. You will want to pick a training location that is close enough to periodic traffic that you will have a chance to train but not so close or with so much traffic that your dog gets over stimulated/threshold*.
Preparations for training:
• You’ve selected a training area perhaps at a local park or near an intersection in your neighborhood where you can safely be away from the traffic as you gradually refine your new skill.
• Your dog has been well exercised.
• Your dog is hungry.
• You have lots of tasty treats.
As you approach the training location with your dog keep an eye out for traffic. The moment you see a car approaching you will ask your dog to watch, do not wait until the car is near you, that will be too late. Position your body so that when your dog looks at you he is also looking AWAY from the oncoming vehicle. As your dog turns to look at you mark the behavior and give several treats. Continue feeding your dog as the car passes by. If your dog was successful, stop feeding once the car has passed you and ask your dog for another behavior like a sit or down and reward that calm behavior. If your dog was not successful it’s likely you were too close to the road and the vehicle. Next time try to be at least an additional 10 feet away, continue to add distance until your dog is able to be successful.
Continue working in this same location until your dog is giving you a quick watch at least 8 out of 10 times you ask for it, and is able to be calm throughout the training session. Once you have achieved this level of success in the initial training location you can try a new setting. If your dog regresses in the new setting don’t be discouraged. Dogs do not generalize well and your dog may just need you to take it more slowly. Add more distance between you and the traffic and continue the training as you did in your original location.
Good luck 🙂
* Threshold — The point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. Merriam-Webster.
TEST 11: LEAVE-IT (this is NOT part of the Canine Good Citizen test)
The handler with the dog on a loose leash walks over food on the ground and, upon command, the dog should ignore the food.
This is perhaps the hardest part of the TDI test for many dogs. Depending on the evaluator you may have to pass by food on the ground, walk over it, or as I’ve seen frequently have your dog “leave it” as the evaluator drops food in front of him while he’s walking. In most cases it is NOT sufficient for the dog to just give you full attention while walking, aka no acknowledgement that the food is even there. The evaluator wants to see that the dog’s seen the food and chosen not to go for it!
Phase 1 — Teach Doggie Zen — learn to give something up to get something
Hold a treat in your left hand, hand closed place your closed fist on the floor (your dog will likely paw & lick at your hand, don’t give in!). As soon as your dog takes his attention off your hand (looks away, looks at you, whatever) use your marker and give a treat from your right hand. You may need to keep your right hand behind your back.
Phase 2 — Leave It — Begin to add the CUE “LEAVE IT”
• Place the treat or object on the floor, say LEAVE IT.
• If your dog goes for the treat or object quickly step in front of it using a “body block” to prevent your dog from getting the “item” (many a treat has ended up on the bottom of my shoe!)
• Use your marker and treat your dog from your hand when your dog backs up or looks at you. Do not let your dog eat the treat off the floor.
• To master LEAVE IT you will need to practice this stage with many different items and in many different locations.
Here is an excellent link on how to teach a reliable leave it:
Good luck 🙂