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How to Teach A Puppy to Stay

7 Steps to Train Puppies to Wait

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How to Teach A Puppy to Stay

When Magic was a puppy, he learned to "wait" at the door.

Image © Amy Shojai, CABC

Learn how to teach a puppy to stay to prevent your puppy from becoming a door-dasher, injuring others or hurting herself. Some puppies think they’re always on the wrong side of a door, and try to dash out any time it opens. That’s not just a nuisance and bad manners on the part of your fur-kid.

It’s also potentially dangerous for the pet when he escapes the house when visitors arrive—like when Halloween trick-or-treaters arrive or folks come to visit for the holidays. It’s also scary and dangerous for people who become startled or knocked down when puppies jump up on them. Puppies don’t have to be big to bowl you off your feet, especially if stairs or ice and snow are involved.

Dealing with door-dashing pups is particularly frustrating for owners. Even when the fur-kid understands that a particular location (the doorway) is forbidden, she may avoid the place when you’re looking but making a zooming escape as soon as visitors arrive and the door cracks a whisker-width open.

What can you do? Recognize you will NOT stop a pup’s urge to see on the other side of the door or beat you outside. You cannot change instinct, but you can modify some of these irksome behaviors.

How to Teach a Puppy to Stay

The command “stay” more often is used in obedience training and means “don’t move from this position.” In other words, once the puppy sits, stands or lies down and is told to “stay” the pup is not to change position until released. That can be a difficult lesson especially for a youngster to learn. It’s a vital command to learn for dogs that will compete in various sports or trials.

But for pet dogs I like the “wait” command for everyday polite behavior around the house. The “wait” command can save your puppy’s life. For instance, if one of the kids leaves your gate open, telling her to “wait” can keep your puppy from chasing a stray cat into the street.

While “stay” freezes all doggy action, a “wait” simply stops forward movement. A “wait” is perfect for stopping door-dashing dogs. As the puppy approaches the door you tell her to “wait” so that she pauses. That lets you go out first, or allows guests to enter. The “wait” still lets her stand, sit, or down—or even back up—as long as she does not cross that invisible boundary.

You can also use the “wait” command to stop your puppy from leaping forward in a rush to reach the dinner bowl so she must “wait” politely until you place it on the floor. Then you give her permission to come forward and eat.

7 Steps to Train Puppies to Wait

An effective and quick way to teach your puppy “wait” is to use the door as a training tool. You won’t need any sort of reward, either. Getting to go through the door rewards the puppy better than any treat or toy. Here’s how it works.

  1. Walk to the door as usual. When your puppy comes along, tell her “wait.”
  2. Place your hand on the doorknob. The pup likely will dance around seeking to get between your legs and the door as you open the door but just a crack.
  3. When she starts to push ahead of you to go through, say “WHOOPS!” (or “YOU BLEW IT” or a similar cue) and shut the door.
  4. Just wait a moment. When she finally makes eye contact, again tell her “wait” and reach for the door. When she moves forward, pull your hand away once again and say WHOOPS!
  5. Once again wait until she’s calm and looks at you. Reach for the door. If she remains calm, begin to open it and continue as long as she waits and doesn’t move forward. It may take many repeats before your puppy makes the connection. But sooner than you think, she’ll realize the door only opens if she remains still.
  6. Reward her for a short three to five second “wait” by giving her a release command—“okay!” in a happy voice, and throw open the door so she can sprint outside. Remember to choose your commands with care and use the same words each time so the consistency helps her learn what “wait” and WHOOPS mean.
  7. When a puppy consistently waits for five-seconds when asked, you’ll know that she at least understands what you want. At that point, practice extending the amount of time she waits to ten seconds, fifteen, thirty seconds and so on. She should eventually be able to contain her exuberance and wait—even when the door remains open—until you give her the happy release word.

Practice at a variety of doors in the house so that she understands the command applies no matter where it’s given. Baby gates, car doors, front and back doors, gates in the outdoor fence, and just the ringing of a doorbell can all be used to train consistency to ensure your puppy grows up to be well behaved—and safe.

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