Wait as a Leadership Tool
Wait helps you establish leadership by gently teaching your dog to give you control of the access to things he really wants, even when they're right in front of him. When he makes the choice to wait patiently, and willingly offers you power over his very existence, you get leadership without confrontation or violence. Yes, this does make you something of a dictator, but a benevolent one.
Sit, Wait, and Eye Contact for Food
Food is very important to most dogs — it's literally survival. By calmly and confidently making your dog's survival possible on a daily basis, your dog is much less likely to challenge your for leadership on other, bigger issues.
At mealtime, instead of dumping a scoop of kibble in your waiting (and maybe hysterical) dog's bowl, put the bowl on the counter. Prepare the food, and before putting it down, take your dog's leash (or dragline) in one hand, and hold the bowl in the other. The leash should not be tight, but shouldn't have any slack in it, either.
Have your dog wait while you throw his favorite toy. Hold him by the collar, and don't release him until he's not putting any pressure on it, then send him to get his toy with an enthusiastic, “Take it!” This game enhances leadership, teaches him a bit of self-control, and provides a foundation for competition retrieve work.
Ask your dog to sit — once — then back it up with a little tension straight up on the leash, if he's not used to sitting in the midst of his excitement over mealtime. Tell him to “Wait” one time like you mean it and lower the bowl to the floor. If he gets up before you get the bowl all the way down, pick it right back up, and put tension on the leash until he sits again. Don't repeat your sit command, just keep the tension on his collar until he does.
It doesn't matter at all how many times you have to repeat the process to get the bowl all the way to the floor with your dog holding his sit; it just matters that you calmly and matter-of-factly “win.”
As soon as he can sit there with the food bowl right in front of him, get eye contact by either waiting until he offers it, or making the tiniest noise to get his attention. Help as little as possible, and let him get CR/rewarded (the release to the bowl is his reward in this instance) for making the right choice.
If you repeat this exercise at every meal, your dog will probably offer the behavior unprompted within a week. Once he figures out that the sit, wait, eye contact routine is what is earning his access to the food, vary the amount of time you require him to maintain eye contact before releasing him.
Anything given too freely loses value, and that includes food. You should not provide your dog with free access to food. It takes a vital leadership and training tool away from you. If you think your dog isn't motivated by food, try feeding him smaller portions twice a day. Whatever he doesn't eat in ten minutes, remove it and offer it again later, but only at the next scheduled mealtime.
Territory boundaries are very important to dogs, or at least who crosses them first is. If your dog barrels past you through doors or on stairs, bodyblocking you as she goes, not only is she being rude and disrespectful of you, but also she could injure you or herself in her haste to be first. On stairways and when going through doorways, insist that your dog wait for you to go first.
Until she knows she has to wait for you to release her, try to cut her off before she gets out of position by giving her a verbal correction, like, “Aaaccchhh! Wait!” but be prepared to block her path several times, if necessary. There are detailed instructions for teaching your do to wait at doorways in the “Using Wait to Keep Your Dog Safe” section of this chapter.