Wait On The Dog aka The Art of Doing Nothing
Teach your dog how to
behave at coffee shops!
Wait On The Dog, aka The Art of Doing Nothing, is an exercise that often feels like you are "not doing anything" with your dog. Many people are tempted to not do it as they confuse this with teaching a down-stay. The down-stay is when you give your dog a command to "down" and then stay-put while you walk away. The dog is to remain lying down and alert, waiting to be released. This exercise differs by requiring that you let your dog figure out on his own to ignore any distractions, lie down and get comfortable next to you. This is an exercise in "letting go" and "getting over" things around you, teaching your dog how to calm himself down as well as realize that you are a source of comfort and leadership. You are the one who decides where the two of you will be and for how long. Your dog will learn that there are times you will not be able to entertain him and he will be expected to calm down and be well-behaved.
Wait On The Dog is deceptively easy and should be practiced for a minimum of 15 minutes, every day. It is best to practice under low distractions when your dog has been exercised and is tired, and when you are not tired. You will want to occupy your time by reading a book or surfing the internet, but no TV. Have everyone in your family take a turn.
Attach a leash to your dog and either tether your dog to you or your chair. Allow your dog only enough leash so that if your dog decides to, he can lie down quietly at your feet. For large dogs or dogs with severe behavior issues, you may want step on or stand on the leash, close enough to your dog so that his movement is limited.
Do not ask or force your dog to sit or down. Do not touch or talk to your dog. If your dog does anything for your attention, ignore him. However, if your dog climbs up on you, chews the leash, mouths your hand, or any other behavior that is equally unacceptable, do not scold your dog, just calmly interrupt the behavior. Be persistent and patient until your dog settles.
The 15 minutes begins AFTER your dog settles down. This means the first few times you do the exercise it may last as long as an hour, some dogs even longer than that. During the first couple of days a really determined dog will throw everything at you, going through all kinds of behaviors. When none of the behaviors win them their freedom they will literally throw themselves down, give a loud humph and refuse to look at you. Be patient, your dog will soon learn to quietly settle at your feet. Remember to not try to help your dog. Give your dog the chance to figure out what the most comfortable position is going to be. This needs to be a mental exercise for your dog.
After 15 minutes, release your dog even if your dog has fallen asleep by getting up and saying "lets go". Once your dog has mastered this phase of lying at your feet, you can begin to say "get easy" as you both settle in your spot. If your dog becomes alert or gets up, say "get easy" and apply gentle leash pressure to guide your dog back to comfort.
Once your dog can quickly "get easy", have your dog lay down in a spot several feet away. You can move around the room, but remain in the room. Repeat until your dog is ok with this. Once your dog has mastered this, the next phase will be to work on leaving the room for a few minutes at a time, slowly increasing the amount of time until your dog can remain quietly resting for 30 minutes.
Practicing this exercise will give your dog the gift of self-confidence, balance,
and calm "doggy zen"!