Saturday, August 17, 2013

Training Stay vs. Wait

I train the wait command before I train stay. I don't have any reasoning behind this - it's just the way I do it.

Some people think stay and wait are the same. They aren't. Stay means "stay exactly where you are, don't move a muscle, until I tell you." Wait means "Stay exactly where you are and watch me for your next cue."

Good uses for wait:
- Prevent dog from charging the food dish
- Prevent dog from chasing
- Teach dog self-control (althoug, techincally, it isn't self control, since I'm controlling it... but eh, whatever.)

Here's some real world examples.

We are at the vet. A small dog starts getting mouthy. Bugs would really, really like to chase that dog down and maybe even bite it. Not on my watch, lady - WAIT. Because wait is a combination of focus and micro stay, her attention is on me 100% despite what's going on in the environment. Then I tell her to lie down and settle - and she does, because she's focused on me.

We are on a trail in the woods. Bugs spies a chipmunk. She starts pulling on the leash - but hold up. That chipmunk is headed for thick pricker bushes. WAIT!! She stops, looks at me, quivering and drooling.... that chipmunk looks so tasty, Mom! Now I say "Let's go!" which is her cue that it's time to get a move on. We walk off, the chipmunk safe from doberjaws and Bugs safe from the brambles.

So... how did I accomplish this?

First off, let me say that I am very lucky to have a dog who is intelligent and eager to please. If your dog isn't, you'll have to practice more frequently and be patient I firmly believe all dogs can learn this, with plenty of effort and consistency.

We started with treats. I placed a treat on the floor and said WAIT! with a hand signal.

Here's an example of the hand signal, with Bruno waiting and focusing....

Note that the hand signal is fairly relaxed - this isn't a firm palm forward like with a stay.

Anyway, back to business - place the treat on the floor and say WAIT with a hand signal. When the dog goes to get the treat, give the correction sound - ah ah ah ah ah!! - and visually block the treat for a second. Reinforce - WAIT. Good wait!

Your dog is still going to try to go for that treat on the floor, and that's okay. He only needs to wait for a second or two. Only mark and release when the dog is WAITING - not when he gets up to get the treat. If he has taken even one step towards the treat and you release and let him get it, presto! you just taught him NOT to wait.

Once he's waited for a second, mark (YES!) and release (OKAY!) and cue him to take the treat (Take it!)

Sometimes dogs are confused by this and won't go get the treat when released. That's fine - pick it up and give it to him while saying "Take it!"

Practice this lots of times throughout the day. You can use treats or part of your dogs daily diet, if you're watching your dog's weight.

Once your dog can wait for a few seconds, it's time to increase the duration of the wait. This shouldn't be hard to do, because you've practiced like crazy and your dog is awesome at the two second wait.

Now it's time to generalize. Start making him wait to go outside - if he goes out despite you telling him to wait, verbally correct and start over. (Note: Don't do this if he's been crated all day, has bladder control issues, or is learning housetraining.)

Be sure to give him a cue when he's done waiting - remember, that's the point of the exercise. Wait = wait right where you are for the next cue. You can cue anything, really. Like this:

(Cue)  Bugs, wait!
(Mark) Yes! Good wait! WAIT....
(Release) Okay!
(Cue) Now JUMP!
(Mark)  Yes!
(Cue) Down!
(Mark) Yes! Good down!

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