by Leigh Pyron
I’m sure the first thing you’re thinking is Oh my gosh! are they alright? Yes, they did survive the collision with only minor injuries, thank goodness!
It all started about six months ago when I received a call from a couple who desperately needed help with their two “out-of-control” Labradoodles named Chicklet and Bazooka. Both dogs had some basic obedience training when they were puppies, but unfortunately no one had taken the time to keep up with the training as they grew older. They had quite a few challenging behavior issues to address, such as, knocking adults and children over when greeting them, pulling their owners through the neighborhood on leash walks, and (one behavior they had truly perfected) “bolting” out of the house through the front door and from the back of their SUV.
A few days later when I arrived at their home for a consult, a nice young couple, Denise and Mark and their two children, Jack and Samantha, greeted me at the door. As the kids ran off to play in their rooms, we took a seat at the dining room table to talk. I was very anxious to hear the story about the car incident. I was trying to concentrate on what they were saying, but all I could hear was the background noise of scratching and banging against a door somewhere down the hall. They had put the dogs in the kitchen and they could barely contain themselves anxiously waiting to meet the new human that had entered their house. I finally told them to go ahead and let the dogs out while I stood up and braced myself a bit against the table. In seconds, a burst of energy came bounding into the room and I was gregariously greeted by two very large Labradoodles, one apricot in color and resembling the curly poodle side of the Labradoodle, and a wiry haired chocolate one looking very much like an Irish Wolfhound. I was trying to practice my usual initial greeting of new dogs, ignoring them and keeping eye contact with the owners, but I wasn’t very successful. These two were bound and determined to win my undivided attention!
As Denise and Mark were yelling out their names in redundancy, and with extreme embarrassment, they each grabbed a dog and peeled them off of me. The next thing I knew, they were tossing handfuls of treats in the opposite direction for them to fetch. As the dogs flew across the room in search of their treats, we were finally able to take our seats again at the table. They were just about to share their story with me again when our brief, peaceful moment came to another screaming halt. Because both dogs had Labrador in them, the treats were gone in a matter of seconds and before we knew it I had a chocolate, apricot parfait in my lap! Now someone who isn’t a dog lover would have probably left the house by now, but the two of them were quite comical in their battle to achieve the most affection from the visiting human. It was all I could do to keep from laughing as the poor couple turned red and grabbed the pooches off of me again! Needless to say, Chicklet and Bazooka ended up back in the kitchen for the rest of our visit.
Now, finally, I would get to hear the long awaited story… One Saturday afternoon Denise had headed off to run some errands while Mark got the kids ready to take them to a friend’s house for the day. As the kids got into the car, Mark headed back into the house to get the dogs. He was the only one who could handle the two dogs, so he was the one responsible for exercising them. Once the kids were dropped off he headed for a hiking trail a few miles away. As he pulled over to park the car, he saw someone he knew going into a house across the street. As Mark caught the man’s attention he waved to the man, who hollered out to him that he was taking his son to a birthday party. Unfortunately, Mark could barely make out what he was saying due to Chicklet and Bazooka’s out-of-control barking, whining and scratching at the hatch door desperately trying to get out. He ended up just smiling at the man and waving goodbye. He then proceeded to change from his street shoes into his hiking boots. As he was putting on his boots, unbeknownst to him, one of the bootlaces had gotten tangled around a floor latch that just so happened to be the release for the back-door hatch. As he grabbed the second boot he realized it was caught on something and began to pull it towards him. All of a sudden the back hatch popped open and out bolted Chicklet and Bazooka into the street. As the dogs flew past him, Mark, flabbergasted and frantic, struggled to release his bootlace from the latch. He shoved his foot into his boot without lacing it and bolted out of the car himself to try and accost the crazy doodles at large!
Chicklet and Bazooka immediately headed towards the house where the birthday party was commencing in the backyard. By the time Mark caught up with the two dogs and made it into the backyard, he found them standing on top of a picnic table devouring a Cookie-Monster birthday cake! The dogs were surrounded by a group of screaming, crying and laughing children and adults. Mortified by the scene his dogs were starring in, he ran at top speed hoping he could take them by surprise. The second they caught a glimpse of him they flew off the table and headed around the other side of the house back towards the car. As Mark made his way around the house to the street, he was just in time to see his two crazy dogs looking back at him as if to say, “hurry up he’s gaining on us!” Within seconds of that look, the dogs ran head-on into a moving mini van.
Luckily for Chicklet and Bazooka the person in the van happened to be searching for a parking spot when they ran into it, so the van was barely moving. The dogs were a bit stunned and in shock, but they recovered just fine. Mark on the other hand was another story! Needless to say, Chicklet and Bazooka’s obedience training program would begin right away and it would definitely include “Wait and Stay!”
Once your dog has learned “Wait and Stay” there are many ways you can practice using it:
· At any entrance or exit of a house or building
· Getting in and out of your vehicle
· Ask for a “Wait” before releasing your dog to eat his meal
· At street corners and intersections
· To keep from entering an unsafe area, e.g., a glass breaking in the kitchen
· Using it as a backup to recall. If your dog won’t “come” when you call, try “Wait or Stay” and walk towards him
· Use it as a game to play with your dog inside or outside of your home. Ask your dog to “Wait/Stay” while you go and hide somewhere; then release him by calling to find you.
Teaching “Wait and Stay”
“Wait”– When you ask your dog to “Wait” they cannot move past the threshold where you asked them to wait, like the front door, but they can move about behind the threshold.
Teaching “Wait” – Put your dog on a 6-foot leash and shorten the leash a bit only giving your dog a few feet of the leash as you walk towards the front door. As you reach to open the door, begin to turn your body around to face your dog with your back to the opening of the door. If your dog is used to going out the door ahead of your, you may have to quickly move in front of him blocking him from the exit. Once he is in place, ask your dog to “Wait” while holding out your hand with a flat, open palm facing him. Begin to slowly take a few steps backwards while keeping a hold on the leash. If he tries to move forward, take a quick step forward into his space forcing him to move back behind the threshold. Repeat “Wait” one more time. Once he has been successfully waiting for a few seconds, release him by saying, “OK” or “Release” giving him permission to pass through the threshold. You don’t have to treat him once you release him; he is rewarded by being allowed to move through the entrance. You can praise him and tell him he is a “good-boy.” Practice this both entering and exiting the house. Be sure not to make him wait too long at first, work on building up time and distance.
“Stay”- When you ask your dog to “Stay” he can be in a sit, down or standing position. He must stay in position, without moving about, until you release him.
Teaching “Stay” – Once your dog is in position tell him to “Stay” while holding out your hand with a flat, open palm facing him. Take a few steps backwards keeping an eye on him to be sure he remains in position. If he tries to move out of position, step forward moving him back into position, and ask for the “Stay” again. After a few seconds of staying in position, release him by saying, “OK” or “Release.” Remember to take your time building up on time and distance. If he keeps popping-up out of his position, you may be moving back too far or too fast. Start out at a short distance apart and only make him wait a few seconds the first several times you practice it.
Have fun with these exercises. Once your dog has achieved “Wait and Stay” at close range, practice these exercises outdoors where you can really expand on your distance and time. When a dog learns commands through the fun of exercise and play they tend to learn very quickly and they don’t seem to forget it!