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Wait at the Gate……


                           ……Wait at the Crate


Lessons in Self-Control

Teaching dogs the meaning of the word “wait” – it is not the same as “stay”.  “Stay” means stay put, where you are, until you are given a release such as “okay”, “okay, let’s go”, “okay, good boy/girl”, “okay, good dog’s name”.  You could even use a word such as “release”.


“Wait” means well…wait, something will happen relatively soon, it teaches the dog to exercise self control, even though he/she may be in an anticipatory state of mind they will gain the ability to self calm and be patient.  You can teach your dog to wait prior to crossing a road, before entering or exiting through a doorway or gate and while you are opening a vehicle door  in preparation for entering or exiting.


Once your dog understands the concept you can use it to signal a brief, “calm waiting” until further instruction is given.  Before a meal, or while you are preparing it, is also a useful opportunity to make use of the “wait”.  It even comes in handy when you need a moment to clean up after your dog while out on a walk.


For the next week or two we will be working with all of the dogs to “wait” at the gate prior to entry or exit, also to wait while another dog may be asked to come through.  The dogs will also be learning to “wait” when we open the crates to let them out, it may be from a “rest break” (high energy players and puppies are often given frequent “rest times” throughout the day).


Sometimes, just as children of any age in a daycare or day camp environment, the dogs need to be given “rest time/crate time”.  We do this to facilitate the lowering of their “excitement/arousal” levels or as a precaution to ensure the safety of other dogs and themselves. 


For “rest” periods and “puppy naps” we try first to encourage the dogs into a crate, calling them by name and gently channeling them in, often without even touching them.  The dogs are calmly praised for their cooperation, and most, comfortably settle down.


When as “day camp attendants” we need to crate a dog for safety reasons, we may need to hold their collar, guide them to a crate and put them in.  This is never used as “punishment”, once they are in the crate they are praised and asked to “settle”.  Of course some may express their objections for a moment or two, but they too usually settle down.


We rotate the dogs in and out of crates at various times during the “day camp” day, we do this as a way of maintaining safety, fair “playtime” for “like energized” dogs, and to ensure that all dogs will get adequate “down” time.  There are no “bad dogs” but occasionally there are “inappropriate behaviors”, and often a brief “rest period” is the best solution.


So…when dogs are ready to come out of the crate we unlatch the door and ask for a “wait”, if the dog attempts to exit without “calmly waiting”, the door is held in place, most dogs then willingly comply.  This means they “wait calmly”, and may sit or lie down.  The goal is for us to open the crate door all of the way and have the dog exit calmly, rather than like a “bullet”.  This helps to contribute to the “balance” of energy they are bringing with them out to the rest of the dogs.


Home Practice


On leash – Waiting to be leashed or harnessed up, when entering and exiting from the home, to and from, and or entering or exiting the vehicle. Before crossing a road, or waiting at a crosswalk.  Using the verbal correction “ah…wait”, and or the position of your body you want to allow the dog to “release” its “energy (think how your body may feel when you finally get to sit down or lie quietly on your bed for a moment or two), in the dog you will see that same “relax” even if he/she is standing, once achieved you then proceed with a release and further instruction such as “okay, good dog’s name,”   “let’s go”, or “in/out of the car”.

(If you dog is “off-leash” reliable you can do all of your home practice off leash…safety first at all times).


Off leash – waiting to exit the crate, waiting for a meal, a treat, a toy, or even for the start of a game of fetch and retrieve.  When the dog returns a toy to you, you can also ask for a wait before you throw it again, (this would be a very short “wait in duration, a second or two, you don’t want to “spoil” the fun of the game).  You can request a “wait” if you enter a room which is off limits to the dog for a short time, a few minutes or so, ( in this instance it is okay if the dog walks away, he is still “waiting” and not entering the room as requested).


Primarily our goal is to teach the dogs the meaning of the word “wait”, it is less of a “command”, as a “request” it gives us an opportunity to gain the willing cooperation of the dog.  Thus any corrections are merely verbal combined with the obvious presence of a still closed door or gate, and or your body position which are all subtle but useful “barriers” to being able to exit or enter.  When teaching your dog the “wait” try to avoid using your hand to push or pull the dog, this only serves to create “oppositional force”, this means the dog will in all likelihood just “push” at you or “pull” away from you which will inhibit his/her ability to exercise self-control.  


We may at times be offering treats in addition to praise during some of our current and upcoming day camp “teaching” opportunities and sessions.  Our “treat” of choice is “Roll Over” beef dog food chubs.  Its aroma and taste are very appealing to the dogs.  The amount your dog may receive would be approximately a teaspoon to a tablespoon or two of pea to kidney bean sized morsels, depending on the size of your dog and whether he/she is “treat motivated”.  Please advise if for any reason you may not wish your dog to consume any occasional treats, simple praise is also a good motivator and we rely on it more often than not.  Any positive comments, feedback or concerns you may have are always welcome and appreciated.


It is our strongest desire to enrich each and every dogs day camp experience  and to use every opportunity to assist you in encouraging and teaching your dog to be a “good canine citizen”, in the day camp as well as in both the “dog world” and in the world of us humans.


Note:  You may have noticed we are no longer requiring the dogs to sit at the gate before we allow you to greet them at pick-up time.  Many dogs know when you are here, many have waited the last half hour or so looking for you, and to require that “last” sit is akin to requiring a child to draw one more picture before they get a hug from mum or dad.  It dampens the mood and causes emotional frustration for many of the more sensitive dogs.  Rather we will be encouraging a calm leash up, and a calm flow of approach out to you.  Once you have calmly greeted your dog you may or may not request a “sit” as you choose.




Marjanna Wornell 


(Note this article was written when I was working at a doggy day camp, although it still has value were you to apply these principles in your own home,)


Copyright Marjanna JA Wornell all rights reserved.

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