Ideas for Encouraging Patience, Self-Control and Attention in Dogs

Train “wait” and “stay”. Very similar, with subtle differences. Wait is as though a wall has suddenly appeared; the dog should stop abruptly. Wait is generally of short duration, and most of the time the dog can move around where he’s been but not go forward. When a stay cue is issued, the dog has to stay where he is for a longer length of time, and one position is preferred. Train wait using a door way, ask the dog to wait as you walk through the door first, using your leg to block him if necessary. Practice often and in various ways. Train stay by asking for a position, such as sit or down, cuing a stay and rewarding frequently for remaining in the position. Extend duration and phase out treats very slowly.

Incorporate self control into playtime. Example: when playing fetch, ask for a sit or a down between throws. When that’s been mastered, ask for a stay, hold on to the dog’s collar, and throw the ball. Dog may fetch the toy when you issue a release cue. This may take a lot of repetition, but teaches the dog a lot of self discipline and that you, the owner, controls it’s movements.

Wait In Motion – Train dog to wait (stop) while walking, heeling, retrieving, running. At first, a small pause is acceptable. Encourage and repeat until dog freezes at wait command. If the dog doesn’t know what is coming, they will be looking to you for direction. This command can also help keep a dog safe in an emergency situation.

Interrupt playtime! Say enough and walk through your dog(s), and then ask for sit. Reward, and release. Repeat, repeat, repeat. An “interrupt” command for playtime is useful in various different scenarios. A firm “enough” command can remove your dog from possible negative interactions at the dog park!

Train a “go to bed” or “go to mat” and USE THE COMMAND when your dog is being too high energy, extroverted, playfully aggressive or unfocused. Dogs usually do better when they have something to do, even if it is simply laying down.

Make your dog sit for their meals. Then stay for their meals. Then ignore their meals for 5 minutes until you say it’s dinner time. This emphasizes that the food, a necessity to life, comes from and is controlled by you. Do not take your dogs meal away once it’s been given except in emergency situations. After all, you wouldn’t like it if someone removed your plate in the middle of your meal.

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Train a solid “leave it” and “watch me” command. This can help prevent your dog from ingesting dangerous foreign objects, and protect your sandwich at the same time! Don’t forget your children and visitors, everyone appreciates a dog who doesn’t continually beg for food.

Stay and Wait everywhere. At corners, at doors, before food, before a leash, before getting in or out of a car, for long periods, for short periods, in sight and out of sight. This keeps your dog paying attention, and practising patience exercises.

Make a game of “watch me”. For a random 15 minutes a day, reward the dog every time he looks at you. This helps to dog to realize that paying attention to you is good, and will improve focus and communication between you and your dog.

Take the time to occasionally (or often!) feed your dog his meals by hand. Ask for sits, downs, waits, leave-its, anything you can think of. This again emphasizes that a life necessity is provided by you, as well as gives an opportunity to hone skills.

Whenever possible, eat BEFORE your dog, and have him watch you – from a polite distance, of course. This encourages patience.

“Jackpot” reward your dog anytime it chooses to give you attention over a major distraction. They’ve decided you’re more important than something else. Tell them they are correct.

Go back every so often and ‘re-charge’ your dog’s name/reward markers. Call it’s name/marker, when it comes and/or looks at you, treat. Treat every time for a five minute session for a ‘re-charge’. This encourages quick, happy responses from the dog.

Be fun – you are much more interesting as a positive than a negative.

Give your dog experience. We are all calmer when we know what’s going on and the world isn’t bright and shiny.

Remember: Always have fun and have patience!

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