This is true for humans and dogs. Teaching and enforcing the Wait command creates a situation where your dog will look to you as a leader and a provider every time they approach a threshold. Doorways, stairs, gates, car doors, (and if you're really advanced, interior boundaries like kitchens) should all require your dog to wait until you give them the green light. If you think you’re really getting good at this exercise, try having them wait when you open the car garage door. Usually the sound of the electric opener has them signing up for the limbo contest! If you can have your dogs wait in the garage while you unload the groceries, you should give yourself a pat on the back for keeping your dog safe and teaching them the value of being a well-behaved dog. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet. Knowing it’s a goal is half the battle.

As with everything else in dog training, start out small and work your way up with plenty of “good-dogs” along the way. Begin getting your dog aware of the expectations you're putting on him by starting this exercise on-leash with normal sized doors. If your dog is on-leash, you'll be able to guide him correctly toward the behavior you want and then work your way up to off-leash and more exciting thresholds only when you think he is ready. Remember, we want to set him up to succeed and condition him at a reasonable pace. Imagine a household where your dog doesn’t bowl you over descending down the stairs. Nice, huh? 

Difference between Wait and Stay:

Stay:  Stay in that exact position and location. Stay like a statue.

Wait:  Don't cross this line. You can sit, down, play cards…just don't cross this threshold.

A Basic Exercise to Practice the Wait Command:

Have your dog on-leash and walk him to the back door. (Try not to use the leash, just have it for back-up.) We want to focus on body language here, so as you open the door, pivot yourself to become the door and block your dog from crossing the line. If necessary, step towards your dog to push him back if he seems overly eager to cross. Think of yourself like a goalie blocking his territory. Stand firmly and block/nudge with your leg. Once your dog is relaxed and not counting the seconds to shoot past you, give him the invitation to cross by moving aside and using your release word.

If your dog has a habit of pushing past you, you may find you'll be doing this exercise on-leash for a while. If you're in the early stages of training your dog, incorporate this expectation so you don't have this bad habit to break when he's an adult.

I cannot stress enough the importance of the Wait command. It can literally be a life saving exercise. Dogs that bolt out the front door, tailgate or who are used to pushing themselves in front of you are just asking for trouble. Your dog doesn’t stand a chance against a car and it’s a match you want to avoid at all costs. If you feel you need help training or practicing this command, seek help from a professional who sees the value in your dog learning to wait at doors.

In order to be successful, you must be consistent with your expectations. If you allow your dog to get away with not waiting at doors 3 out of 10 times, you are teaching him that he doesn’t have to listen to you and that waiting really isn’t that important. If you practice the Wait command every time at every door, pretty soon you will find that your dog will begin to offer you the behavior. When that happens, reward him like crazy.

Your dog will be much happier, safer and well-behaved because of your time and attention to the Wait command.

Chad Culp–Certified Dog Trainer, Behavior Consultant, Certified Holistic Chef for Animals

Copyright 2005-2013 Chad Culp, Thriving Canine. All rights reserved.