Such emphasis is placed on obedience training and leadership. Dogs should get permission from humans in order to get the things they want. Dogs are made to stay or wait before they are allowed through doorways, allowed access to their meals, etc. Once a dog complies with the stay, he is then released to do whatever it was he was waiting for or waiting to receive. This is a wonderful training tool and a great leadership strategy. Unfortunately for some dogs, controlling access with a stay and a release creates too much excitement.
Some dogs behave as a racing greyhound in a starting box waiting for the race to begin. They adopt a ‘ready, set, go’ mentality creating pent up energy that is then released in a surge once permission is given. This can result in bolting toward the door or food because in that time of waiting, the value of what is on the other side increased every second they waited. This can be a very unsafe situation for both the dog and the human. With doorways, dogs can bolt so quickly that their safety – and the safety of anyone in their way is an issue. With mealtimes, it can result in adding more speed to already fast eaters.
So what is one to do with a ready, set, go-type dog? It is necessary to smooth out these transitions; making access to whatever it is a little less exciting. Often this can be accomplished by simply eliminating the release command that frees the dog. Simply thwart or block access to the situation until the dog lessens his effort or hesitates - complying with the roadblock. Once you get the hesitation, then move away from the door, walk through it, or put the food down, and continue on your way without verbally or physically cuing the dog to release. Let your dog figure out when he can go. This allows you to maintain control over the resource through leadership and also keeps the access transition a little smoother.
• Sam Kabbel, CPDT-KA, is owner and president of Valley-based Pet Behavior Solutions, serving the Phoenix area. For more information, visit www.petbehaviorsolutions.com.