Every day, I am so grateful that I have a patient (some might say lazy) dog. While Baxter seems to have a bottomless well of patience, this is a quality that can be developed, no matter what your dog’s natural tendencies are.
Patience is important for a variety of situations. It makes your time with your dog more pleasurable. And it also can help keep your dog safe.
How to teach your dog to be patient
Let’s start with a few examples of how patience can help.
You come home with groceries. You greet your dog, who is excited to see you, but then you resume unloading the car. Will your dog …
1. Wait quietly for more attention until after you’ve brought in all of the bags and put the food away?
2. Jump on you and paw you and dig through the grocery bags?
3. Go lay down when you tell him to, but whine while he watches you work?
You’re out for a walk and you meet a friend. You stop to talk. Will your dog …
1. Greet your friend politely and then sit at your side until you’re ready to go?
2. Tug at the leash, trying to convince you to keep walking?
3. Obey your command to “sit,” but quiver with energy the whole time you’re talking?
I think most of us know which of these options we prefer!
The good news is that patience can be taught. Patience was a lesson that was interwoven in most of the training classes we took with Baxter. We started with fairly simple scenarios and then built up to more challenging situations.
Steps on how to teach your dog to be patient:
The simplest spot to start is at home. When your dog wants to play, eat, go for a walk or be petted, don’t always oblige him right away. You can say, “Give me a minute, buddy.” And carry on with what you are doing. Give yourself a reasonable time limit, so your dog isn’t waiting too long. You want him to realize good things come to those who wait.
If your dog is more demanding, try ignoring him. Or ask for a down-stay or send him to his “place.”
Now, I’m not saying ignore your dog all the time. The major joy of having a dog is interacting with him, and those interactions are essential for your bond. However, you will not be able to interact with your dog every time he wants you to. So setting some boundaries is important.
Lessons we did with our trainer – teaching our dog patience
Here are some of the lessons we did with our trainer to help our dogs build patience.
In one class at a quiet local park, we tied our dogs to a post and walked away (but always within the dog’s sight). This exercise was about confidence, trust and patience. We wanted the dogs to learn that they were okay on their own and to wait quietly until we returned.
Some people didn’t get very far before their dogs got upset. If this happens with your dog, stop. Turn around and look at your dog. Don’t make him more anxious by walking further. When he’s calm, even if it’s only for a second, go back to him and pet him and praise him. Repeat this exercise and your dog will learn that you’re coming back.
In another class, we were doing agility, having our dogs walk on leash along the top of a stone wall. At the end, rather than immediately having our dogs hop down, we put our dogs in a sit and spent some time gazing at the lovely park before we allowed our dogs to get down.
Some dogs shifted uncomfortably or broke their sit and attempted to hop down. This lesson is important to reinforce that you’re in charge. Think of a situation where it wouldn’t be safe for your dog to hop down. You want him to wait until you say he can go.
Increasing the challenge
Over the weeks of the class, we challenged our dogs more. We moved from parks to city streets and practiced sit, stay, wait at a busy corner. We tied our dogs up outside of the coffee shop and went in to buy a drink.
In our final class, we celebrated everything we had learned with a visit to restaurant. We brought our dogs and sat on their dog friendly patio. All of the dogs sat quietly under the table while we talked about everything we’d learned and toasted ourselves and our dogs.
It was a joy to have our dogs with us and know that in a variety of environments and situations, our dogs would behave politely, relax and enjoy being with us as well.
When is patience most important to you? Is your dog naturally patient or impatient? What are your tips for teaching your dog to be patient?
Julia Thomson is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating. She and her family live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada. Follow Julia on Instagram here.