bunnies and squirrels in our yard.
I am hoping to avoid the carnage of dogs vs. itty-bitty wild creatures. I tell
the dogs to wait while I open the back door and clap my hands several times in
warning. When I’m satisfied that I’ve sounded the “dogs are coming” alarm, I
release the dogs and they’re off, bounding into the yard in search of bunnies,
squirrels, chipmunks, birds, or whatever else might be spending time in our
fenced yard while the dogs aren’t looking.
wait – the dogs are put “on hold” briefly while I do something or other, and
then I release them from wherever I am. It’s definitely not a stay. It’s more of a “hang on a minute, we’re
going to do something, but you have to wait until I’m ready.”
doorbell rings and there’s our UPS delivery driver with a package and his
trusty clipboard that I must sign.
I tell the dogs to sit and stay, and then I chat briefly with the driver while
I sign for my package. The door is wide open to the unfenced front yard. I need
my dogs to stay in place until I return to them.
stay – the dogs should get comfortable and not move until I return to them. Stay means “get comfortable, nothing else is
happening until I am back by your side.”
month’s newsletter will delve into these two behaviors and explore their
differences and why you might want to teach them both to your dog.
I use wait in many different situations:
- When I’m
attaching my dog’s leash to her collar before going out the door
- As I’m opening
the car door so I can gather her leash and my belongings
- To fix the
blankets on the bed before she jumps up into the bed
- When I stop to
adjust the leash, my shoes, etc. on our walk
come when called
tells the dog to hang on a minute, I’ll be right back to her. It’s a sort of pause button. My dogs have learned
that wait means that shortly, something else is going to happen. It means “stay
tuned, you’re going to be asked to do something (or released to do something)
in the near future. It helps the dog know that she should stay alert for my
I find it
helpful to have both a wait and a stay because they are very different
behaviors and I have a good use for both.
Stay is different from a wait.
Stay means “get comfortable.” I use stay in these situations:
- When I’m
greeting a visitor at our front door
- When I’m
walking out the door or leaving the room and the dogs aren’t coming with me
my mind, is a more formal behavior than the wait. There’s another important distinction between stay
and wait. In a stay, my dog never leaves that position until I return to her,
release her from the stay, and then we move away together. I don’t ever call my
dog out of a stay – she stays there ‘til I return.
mostly a safety issue. I know that
my dog’s stay is rock-solid. She’s never
practiced leaving that position. Coming to me isn’t something we’ve ever paired
together with the stay. Here’s the point: you don’t want to put your dog on a
stay, walk to the mailbox, and then – before you know it – see your dog in the
road because she thought you were
going to call her and just came running. If you routinely call your dog to come
to you from a stay, that situation
could very well be a disaster in your future because the dog could easily
anticipate your call and leave the safety of the stay.
Is A Stay Always Longer Than a Wait?
The difference between the two has less to do with
the amount of time staying or waiting, and more with what happens after the stay or the wait. In the wait,
the dog stays more alert, watching and listening to you for what to do next. In
the stay, the dog knows that he’s staying put until you return to him.
I think of stays as more relaxing for the dog. She
is free to daydream, sleep, or watch what you’re doing. She knows that she
doesn’t really have to pay attention until you return back to her side. It’s
like telling her she’s off-duty until you’re back by her side.
Do You Really Need Both?
both stay and wait daily in my house.
I love having an easy way to tell the dog “pay attention, something’s coming
next, but just hold on a second.” Just last week, I was going to let the dogs
outside, but before I opened the back door I saw something unusual in the
backyard. It looked like a dead animal. I wasn’t going to let the dogs out
until I knew just what it was. I told the dogs to wait, then walked out to the
questionable “thing.” It turned out to be one of their stuffed animals that had
been left out, gotten drenched in the rain and it’s “fur” was starting to stick
up as the toy dried out. I yelled “release!” and all four of the dogs came
bounding out into the yard. I just needed the dogs to hold on for a minute
while I checked the suspicious thing in the yard. They stayed attentive to me,
waiting for my signal to join me.
salesman showed up on my front doorstep a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to put the dogs away – this guy
might not have really been a salesman
– so I told them to stay (right next to me) as I opened the door. Visually,
four dogs are intimidating. The pest eradicator salesman hurried through his
pitch and didn’t try to sell me when I declined his services. He left as
quickly as he came and the four dogs got some stay practice. It was a good day
for everyone (except the salesman who didn’t get his sale, poor guy). I didn’t
want the dogs to do anything other than stay where they were. They could lie
down or sit, I didn’t care – they just had to get comfortable and stay there;
nothing more would be required of them and I’d let them know when they were
done by returning to them.
month’s newsletter will detail how to
teach the stay and the wait, and what modifications you might have to make
if you’ve been calling your dog from the stay. I think
you’ll enjoy the flexibility and freedom the stay and wait affords.
This article is part of Your Smart Dog newsletter and is published on the
first Wednesday of every month. Your Smart Dog provides a free 2-3 page monthly guide to teaching
your dog all sorts of good manners behaviors.
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