Almost Summer – Teaching “Wait a Minute” and Peaceable Paws is Almost Open!

                 Welcome to Peaceable Paws!


I’m happy to report that our classes are filling up nicely! I was concerned that COVID-19 might keep people away, but we only have a few openings left, including a couple of spots in my Fidos on Farm class… You can sign up for classes on our website: We officially open tomorrow (Monday, June 15). Come hike and train with us!

We continue to put finishing touches on our coronavirus protection plans – getting cement blocks for outdoor tethering, sandbags to keep barriers from blowing over, chairs and canopies are all purchased, and we have hand sanitizers and disinfectants everywhere. Here’s a better view of the training yard – plenty of room for 6 students and the instructor:

I did my first in-person behavior consult last week since March, and am looking forward to more coming soon. Things are looking up!



Interesting… we have not seen one sign of the coyote since our barking fox chased her out of the yard last Sunday morning. No more coyote sightings, and no more animal parts left in our driveway. You GO, little fox! We have, however, seen lots of signs of summer – several 90-degree days (ugh) more flowers blooming everywhere and more butterflies flitting about:

I know, the honeysuckle is a bad invasive species, but it smells soooo nice!!!

Our five baby wrens are growing up – they have feathers now! Almost got a picture of Mom yesterday, but she flew off just before I got her in focus. I’ll get her one of these days – but I’d better get it soon, these little birdies will be fledged before we know it…

I wanted to share this too – one of my favorite spots on the farm. It’s in Rafiki and Levi’s pasture – cool, green, lush, shady – reminds me of New Zealand every time I walk through it (usually looking for a lost fly mask…).










I know that in force-free training we love to focus on getting our dogs to *do* stuff rather than *not do* stuff. Still, I have to admit that one of the most useful behaviors I teach my dogs is “Wait.” In my world, “Wait” means “Pause for a minute” as opposed to the more formal “Stay” which means “Stay in the exact position I left you in until I give you your release cue.” I use “Wait” at doors, at the food bowl, at the top of the stairs (so I can go down without being tripped by dogs), on hikes, if my dogs are getting too far ahead of me, or if they spot a bunny or squirrel that I don’t want them to chase, and any time I just need them to pause briefly. A really nice thing about “Wait” is that it’s easy to teach, and easy to generalize. Here’s how we teach it at Peaceable Paws:

Wait for the Food Bowl

  1. With your dog sitting, facing you, hold her bowl at chest level (with food in it, topped with tasty treats!) and say “Wait.”
  2. Lower the food bowl toward the floor two inches. If your dog stays sitting, click your clicker (or use a verbal marker) raise the bowl back up again, and feed her a treat from the bowl. If she gets up, say “Oops” and ask her to sit again. If she remains in place, lower the bowl two inches again, mark (click), raise the bowl, and treat.
  3. Repeat this step several times until she consistently remains sitting as you lower the bowl. Mark and treat each time.
  4. Gradually move the bowl closer to the floor with succeeding repetitions until you can place it on the floor two feet away from her and pick it back up without her getting up or trying to eat it.
  5. Finally, place the bowl on the floor and say a release cue like “Free!” to tell her to eat.

A really helpful thing about teaching this behavior is that you have at least one built-in daily training session (possibly two, since many of us feed our dogs twice a day).

Wait at the Door

When your dog is solid with Wait at her bowl, you’re ready to generalize the behavior. The next easy place to practice Wait is at the door. Start with your dog sitting or standing – whichever you prefer. (I prefer Sit.)

  1. Say “Wait” in a cheerful tone of voice. Begin to open the door just slightly. If your dog starts to go out, say, “Oops!” and close the door (be sure she won’t get caught by the door!). Say “Wait” and try opening the door again. If she stays in place, close the door mark and release. Repeat several times.
  2. When your dog consistently doesn’t move for a tiny crack-in-the-door opening, gradually open it wider with each trial, a little bit at a time. Mark and treat each time, but sometimes repeat another Wait without releasing.
  3. Practice cueing your dog to Wait, and opening the door until you can open it completely and she stays in place. Once she’s able to Wait consistently with the door wide open, take one step out. Return, close the door, mark and release.
  4. Gradually increase the time the door is open while your dog is still waiting. Sometimes step out and return, sometimes walk out and invite her to come with you, sometimes walk out and close the door leaving her inside (this will be an auto-release cue).
  5. Practice Wait every time you head out, even if she’s going to come with you. Consistency is the key to helping your dog learn quickly!

Wait on a Walk

To generalize further, practice with your dog on leash. As you’re walking, say, “Wait,” take a few more slow steps and stop. If your dog stops, mark and treat, and continue walking. If your dog continues moving after you stop, let her walk on. When she stops at the end of the leash, mark and treat, and walk on. She should quickly learn to stop when you say “Wait.”

Now, don’t wait – go train your dog!

Hope you are enjoying these blogs! Here’s a heads up – as we move back to a “more normal” life I will probably have to cut them back to once or twice a month – but I promise I will keep doing them. Meanwhile you all stay safe and well, and love your dog!

Warm Woofs,

Pat Miller




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