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WAIT vs STAY

Dog training commands should be simple, but can often become complicated and confusing for the dog (and human too).

For example, if one handler uses command “X” to mean one action for their dog, and then another person uses command “Y” for the same action, our dogs are left having to remember which word which person uses for which command, while handlers are left wondering why their dog isn’t understanding and preforming simple commands.

Pinball couch headtilt

“Say what?”

The dog’s internal response is probably the dog version of, “What ‘chu talk’n bout? The other guy uses “X,” you use ‘Y,” and honestly, I’m not sure what either of you mean.”

To make life easier for everyone, dog, handlers, parents, kids, dog-sitters, trainers, etc., it is imperative that everyone in the house use the same command for the same behavior.

This post is the first is a series of blogs on simple commands.

The Wait and the Stay commands are often used interchangeably. In a home with low distractions, one dog, and no kids, this is probably not a huge problem. However, when we start layering the distractions like kids, other dogs, many visitors, etc., the difference between Wait and Stay can mean the difference between successful management vs everyone running down the street chasing the fluffy lighten bolt that is their dog.

The definitions of Wait and Stay in standard dog training are:

  • Wait – Hang on a second or two, (a short duration) then receive a follow-up command or release word. Here is Pinball doing a simple wait at the door.
  • Stay – Hold position, freeze in place for an undetermined length of time (could be awhile).

The difference is often hard to see at first, but in the dog’s head it is a major difference in difficulty. Wait is something a dog can usually achieve even when they are cranked up by exciting visitors, or stressful situations. However, the Stay is harder to hold depending on how stressed or excited a dog might be.

To understand this in terms we humans experience, we need only look to air travel. We experience differences in difficultly between a short fifteen minute wait to board our airplane, verses the delayed flight that could be hours. One is much harder than the other for different reasons for different people, but in the end, the two different lengths of delay are very different demands on us.

Here are some sample situations where I would use the Wait and Stay commands differently:

Wait
– Dog wants to go outside, handler asks for wait before opening the door.
– Aunt Millie is knocking on the door, the dog is given the wait command, then, once Aunt Millie is in, the dog gets the go say hello command (for another blog).
– Baby drops toy, dog is headed to toy, ask dog for a wait, then be prepared to pick up toy before dog gets there, or redirect the dog with a touch command.
Stay
– I use stay for some veterinary visits and some grooming like ear cleaning, tooth brushing.
– At street corners, I will ask for a stay. I don’t know how long we will wait for the light, and I do want the dog frozen in place in this situation.
– In elevators, I will ask the dog for a stay, again I don’t know how long this will be and I do want the dog frozen as other people get on and off.

Your dog will learn the difference between these two commands because once you have an understanding of what the commands you are building look like, you will mark and reward the appropriate behaviors when your dog offers you the requested behavior.

Wait and Stay are two of the basic, essential commands I outline in Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs And they are initially covered in the Basic classes I teach, then expanded on in the Intermediate classes.

If your dog doesn’t have a good wait and a solid stay, it is time to do some homework.

2 Responses to WAIT vs STAY

  1. Marie April 21, 2016 at 6:46 PM #

    I do not think a dog would hear much difference between the commands “wait” and “stay” because they both have the long a sound. I think the words have to be paired with different hand signals in order for the dog to differentiate between the two commands.

    • Lisa April 25, 2016 at 5:50 PM #

      Give what we know about dogs like Chaser and her ability to understand 1,000 words, we cannot say for certain that our dogs won’t be able to differentiate between the sound of wait and stay. In fact for many years competition obedience folks have used these words to differentiate even less significant varied meanings.
      Your point about using different hand signals for the two different behaviors is good, I usually use different hand signals for all my commands because it is often easier for dogs to understand body language (hand signals) over our words probably because they use body language between conspecifics with such success.

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