Updated: Dec 10, 2019
How many times have you come home from work, walked in the door only to have your dog excitedly jump all over you as you’re trying to take your coat off?
Or how about when you are taking your dog for a walk and see a friend you want to stop and chat with. Does your dog stay calm while you talk with your friend or is your dog pulling and barking to see your friend?
Teaching our dogs patience is not only helpful in various social situations but also helps keep our dogs from becoming overstimulated and unable to make good choices, even in your home.
Imagine your dog going to their special spot when asked as you answer your door; laying calmly in a down stay while you are eating dinner; or sitting calmly at your side when you stop on your walk to talk with a friend.
Teaching our dogs patience, also known as impulse control, can be difficult for some dogs, especially if they haven’t practiced patient behavior. And let’s face it, some dogs are calmer than others. Determine where your dog’s level of patience is now to set them up for success as you begin your training journey.
The best place to begin training for patient behavior is to start at home where your dog is comfortable. Teach your dog to wait for attention when you come in the door. If you are in the habit of petting your excited dog when you come home, you are rewarding excitable and over stimulated behavior. Wait for your dog to show calmer behavior before giving attention. Each day wait a little longer and gain more patience and calmer behavior from your dog before giving attention.
Another way to work on patience is teaching your dog to hold a sit position. Start close to your dog and have them sit for very short periods of time to begin with. Start with 2-4 seconds and increase the time in variable intervals. 5 seconds, 2, 7, 4, 10, 3, 12, 1, 6, 3 . . . mark with a “yes” or a clicker and then reward. The idea is that your dog doesn't know when the reward is coming so she will stay in position anticipating the reward.
You can do the same exercise with the down position. Remember to always give a release cue (Release, Free, Done, Break are the most common) to let your dog she can get up - if the dog doesn't know to stay in a position until released, duration will be very difficult.
Once your dog is doing well with these at home, take it on the road. Work on your dog staying in a sit and a down while in your driveway, on a walk or at the park! Have your dog stay in a sit or a down next to you while another person walks past you and keep their focus on you. When your dog is doing well with this, have a person walk in a wide circle around you while your dog is in a sit or a down calmly and patiently.
Another fun game to play with your dog for more patience is putting your dog in a sit and holding a piece of really yummy food high over their head as they look up to the ceiling. Very slowly begin to move your hand towards your dog’s nose. If they get out of position, just tell them to sit again and keep your hand still. Mark and reward effort! If your dog is new to this, pay attention to the effort your dog is making.
Although the idea is to get all the way to your dog’s nose and then feed them, they may only be able to stay in a sit position when your hand has moved a few inches. That’s okay! They are learning.
Of course, there are so many other fun games and exercises you can do with your dog to help them learn to be patient! Envision your dog being patient and create a training exercise to help you and your dog accomplish that vision. Keep the steps small, successful and fun!