The Importance of WAIT

Happy 2020!

At the beginning of the new year, we always go for our routine walk in the neighborhood because Agent B (my dog Bailey) always needs to secure his territories in the new year. This morning, as Bailey busy sniffing and marking at some flower bushes on the sidewalk, we heard a loud squeak of a tire skidding to an emergency stop. Took us by surprise, an off-leash dog ran across the street to come sniff Bailey without noticing the oncoming car on the street! Luckily, the driver saw the off-leash dog and stopped the car in time or this would have ended terribly. There was no injury to anyone except everyone at the scene probably experienced unnecessary adrenaline rush!

The dog is a neighborhood dog who Bailey had met a few times previously. The owners and the dog just came back from somewhere. As the owners were parking the car on their driveway and getting out of the car, this dog saw Bailey, his friend, and dashed to get across street to say hi. The owner didn’t have time to even put the leash on the dog nor call the dog back. Everything happened so fast! I am thankful the car driver was careful with the street condition and the break on the car worked!

If the dog had a solid WAIT, it would have saved everyone from the scary heart attack. This shows how important WAIT is for your dog’s safety and it is a critical life-saving behavior to teach your dog.

Agent B waiting inside the car with leash on

It is always a good idea to ask your dog to pause at any threshold whether it is physical one like a door way or invisible one such as a car door or curbside. Self/Impulse control and handler-focus are other two key foundations when teaching WAIT.

So, what is WAIT? WAIT basically means “stop forward motion”. If I tell my dog WAIT, I expect him to pause his forward motion and stay at the location. I don’t need him to SIT or DOWN or even LOOK AT ME. I just need him to wait for me there.

Here are some steps to start training WAIT:

  • Manage the environment and your dog. This means, you don’t open door unless you have a good control on your dog. You can also make sure your dog is properly/safely leashed up before you open the door. Baby gate or x-pen is an excellent security tool to ensure your dog can’t just bolt out of the door before he has a solid WAIT.
  • Practice “handler-focus”. If your dog thinks you are the most interesting thing in the world, it reduces the chance your dog rushes to get to something else. The incident I mentioned above, the off-leash dog was eager to see his friend and totally forgot about his people and the potential danger of the street. If he had a good handler-focus, he would have waited for his person to tell him what to do without bolting out he door. To encourage and develop “handler-focus”, find out what your dog finds rewarding (food, toys, freedom, safety, attention, etc.) and use that to build the focus on you in all situations.
  • Practice “self-control”. This goes hand-in-hand with “handler-focus”. If your dog has a solid “handler-focus” and can ignore distractions/triggers because he has a good self-control, you will have enough time to get your dog away from danger. To develop self control, I often start with teaching “ItsYerChoice” game developed by Susan Garrett. When your dog understands how to make a good choice, he will have better self-control and impulse-control. A good self-control would be super important if you have a high prey drive dog.
  • Make the waiting location valuable. Whether you say “wait” or use your hand cue to signal your dog to pause, you want your dog simply stop and just waits for you on the spot. Mark when he stops his forward motion and reward lavishly on the spot. You want him to understand “waiting for you on the spot” is the most rewarding thing in the world. If you are using a doorway to train WAIT, make sure you reward your dog at the location he waits not when he crosses over the line. Note: make sure you deliver cookie to him so he doesn’t need to approach you and cross the line for the cookie.
  • Add in (mild) distraction. Once your dog has a good handler-focus and self-control, while your dog’s on leash or behind a baby gate, add in a boring distraction such as a toy. Let your dog see the toy and say your WAIT. If your dog doesn’t dash to get to the toy, mark and reward him for staying by your side. Slowly build up your dog’s self-control toward more interesting distractions. If you have a dog who chases squirrels, you do not want a real squirrel taunting your dog during your first training session!
  • Generalize this behavior and practice everywhere. Bring WAIT to the real world and practice whenever you see opportunities. You can ask your dog to wait when you are locking the door before heading out for walk. You can ask your dog wait inside the car before you let him jump out. You can ask your dog to wait just because. 🙂

I hope you will make teaching “WAIT” your dog’s new year resolution!

Happy Training~

7 Reasons for Crate Training

When I run my orientation for dog training, I always make sure to talk about the benefits of crate. Many people don’t like the idea of a crate because it resembles a doggie prison as dog is locked inside and can’t move around freely.

As a dog trainer, I find crate being an invaluable tool to manage and transport dogs in so many ways.

As a dog owner of a fearful and resource guarding dog, crate has given my dog so much more peace of mind and security.

From my dog’s perspective, his crate is his safe spot and also his sanctuary. When he is inside his crate, no one bothers him, not even me!

Here are my 7 reasons for crate training:

  • A safe spot for a dog. Dogs are den animals. They like to be in a small enclosed area. When they are in their crates/dens, they don’t need to worry about what’s going on outside. They can truly relax and just chill. I always tell my students, everyone has their own space in the household. Men have their men-cave. For me, I like baking, kitchen is my space. For my dog, it’s his crate!
  • A safe carrier for transportation. We have heard so many cases of a dog running loose on a highway or a dog badly injured after a car accident because they were not secured inside a car. When you are driving with your dog loose in your lap or in the back seat, your dog has no protection whatsoever during an accident. We all know it is safe and required to buckle-up our seat belt when we drive, why don’t we do the same to protect our dogs? Keep your dog in a secured crate inside a car would give your dog most protection.
  • A home base for road trips and dog sport events. Many of us have trouble sleeping in a hotel bed because it is something unfamiliar. We may bring a pillow or a blanket from home to help us sleep easily when we travel. Crate serves the same for dogs. It is your dog’s “home away from home”. It is your dog’s “safety blanket”. With a familiar crate and familiar bedding inside, your dog can find the familiar scent in a strange and new location. It will help them settle with ease. If you have a dog who gets anxious and worried in a new location, bringing his familiar crate will help him settle and relax.
  • A great tool to manage a young puppy who is still learning potty training. Dogs often don’t soil their sleeping area except puppy mill dogs. When your pup hasn’t mastered the potty schedule and can’t control his bladder movement, it’s a good idea to keep him in a crate that is just the right size for him. When you can’t keep an eye on your puppy, the crate also lets you manage your pup’s whereabouts inside the house so he can’t just go explore and eliminate behind your back.
  • A safe location to keep your dog out of trouble when you run errands. Most dogs have to learn to enjoy alone time properly. Some dogs get bored and start to rearrange furniture if you leave the house to their own devices. Keeping a dog inside a crate (up to 4 hours a time) can prevent your dog become trouble-maker and destroy your leather couch, your designer shoes or counter-surf on food that may not be safe for dogs.
  • A safe location for a dog who finds dealing with house guests too much of stress. Some dogs love interaction with people but there are some other dogs who find interaction with humans, especially the small humans tiring and stressful. If you have a dog who prefers to be a wallflower during a gathering or party, it’s best that you keep him in his happy place, crate, with toys and chews to enjoy by himself. This way, you get to focus on being a good host and tend to your guests’ needs while your dog is enjoying his rare alone time all to himself.
  • A safe enclosure to prevent a land-shark attacking my husband’s feet during dinner time. My dog resource guards food especially our dinner. To prevent my husband being the victim of a dog bite, I had taught my dog to love his crate during dinner time at very young age. Now, my dog knows when we are about to have dinner and he can’t wait to run into his crate! He loves to just chill inside and day dreams while we can have a peaceful and enjoyable dinner time in our household.

A rule of thumb for getting the right size of crate: the size of crate should be big enough so your dog can walk in, stand, turn-around and lay down without hunching his back or purposefully curling up his feet.

Different designs and materials will need to be considered depending on how your dog will use the crate. If your dog knows how to unzip zippers, you may not want to get a soft crate with zipper. If your dog has separation anxiety, a crate may not be the optimal choice when you have to leave him alone.

Never force your dog into a crate. Take the time to introduce a crate to your dog and make the crate the best place to be. Once your dog loves it, you will find him spend more time in it without you asking him to.

After reading these benefits, I hope you are now interested in getting a crate for your dog and start crate training with him!