Everybody needs to learn self control, even adorable little greyhound puppies. Teaching a puppy or adult dog to wait before jumping out of a car, bolting through a door, or diving for a food dish is important for the safety of the dog as well as the owner. There are many opportunities through out the day where a dog can and should be taught self control. Learning in many different contexts allows the dog to generalize more quickly and can make your life happier.
Tanner and his littermates all had a good sit and wait for a cookie before they went to their new homes last year. When he arrived at my house, he was asked to sit and wait for his food bowl to touch the floor. If he got up from his sit before the food bowl touched the floor and his release command was given, the food was picked back up. In the very beginning, I used my hand to help restrain him, to give him an extra cue and make it easy. After all, I believe in setting the dog up to be successful in teaching new things. As time went on, the physical cue went away. Now, he goes into his pen and waits for the food. I don't verbally tell him to sit anymore, he knows what he needs to do because I am consistent in what I ask. He eats twice a day and twice a day he has to sit for his food. Here is a video clip of Tanner and Shine's dinner routine.
We have a narrow set of stairs in our house. When we first moved here, the dogs would rush past us down the stairs, often bumping into us in their haste to get by. Hmmmm, this could be dangerous! I could have my hands full with laundry or the dogs' dinner! I could have a visitor who is unsteady on their feet. Someone could get hurt! It's an easy fix. I thought to myself, "what do I want the dogs to do instead of rushing and bumping past me down the stairs?". I taught the dogs to wait on the stairs. When I head for the stairs, they wait for me to go (unless I tell them to go first) and I tell them when they come down or up after me. Since I am consistent, they do this well. If they forget and I hear them put a foot on the step, I stop and back up until I hear them take their foot of the stair. Here is a video of them waiting on the stairs until I get to the bottom with their food. In my mind, this is not a dominance issue, this is self control. Shine often sees me preparing their food and goes down the stairs and to her spot before I get there. I don't mind, as long as she is not pushing me aside to get through.
Another opportunity that Tanner has to wait is when he is in his pen. Whenever I can't be around to watch him (see the posts on chewing), he is in an x-pen that is anchored to the wall. He has access to small part of the yard through a rather large doggy door. When I go to let him out, he sits and waits to be released. He knows what to do because of consistent repetition multiple times a day. When he first came home, I would ask him to sit as I was reaching for the door. He was really good at that! If he tried to get up and come out when the door was opened, I would shut it. At the same time, he was learning to wait for the release command on the sit in our training sessions. It was easy for him to understand in this context as well. Eventually, I would reach for the door latch before telling him to sit. Now, he understands that my reaching for the latch his cue to sit. He has also learned the same behavior in the car and his crate. He sits and waits to be released. Here is a video of him waiting in his pen.
Last but not least is the front door. I hear about poor dogs running out the front door and getting lost all the time. I try to combat that at my house by purposely teaching the dogs to wait until told to go through the front door. There are three different routines that we practice with the front door. One is where I go through the door without being prompted by a knock or without putting leashes on. In this instance, I started by opening the door and throwing treats to the other side of the room. In the following video, you will see that I can leave the door open while I go through it and dogs don't even want to approach the door. In fact, in order for the video to show anything at all, I had to cheat and bait them into hanging out anywhere near the door. The kept running to other side of the room! Here is the video:
The other door routine involves a knock at the door. The dogs run to the door when they hear a knock. They always want to greet visitors! I make them sit and feed them treats while I deal with whoever is at the door. We don't get many visitors so I have to convince a friend, or my hubby to help me train this. My plan is to get a wireless doorbell and train the dogs using this before hooking it up for actual use.
The other door routine is with leashes. They sit while I put their collars and leashes on. I open the door and pick up their leashes before releasing them. Once through the door, I always have a cookie for them. The idea is that instead of wanting to leap out the door to look around, I want them to go out the door and then turn around and look at me. That way if I missed the cat/squirrel/bunny in the yard on my first look, I have another opportunity to get control over the situation. It also ensures they are not tempted to pull on their leashes while I am trying to lock the front door.