This blog has been inspired by a very tragic event that took place in Nov, 2011. This is a re-posting.
The day after Thanksgiving I was getting ready to leave on my dog walking rounds when one of my client's called me to make sure I was going to walk her dogs that day. We had sort of left it up in the air because of the holiday. She then proceeded to tell me that she had bad news for me. One of her dogs, an adorable little Bishon had been tragically killed two days earlier. Upon arriving at the groomers he bolted out of the car and was hit by another car. Sadly, or perhaps, not so sadly for him, he died instantly. I thought about our last walk together. It was a beautiful fall day. We walked on a trail in the woods. What a little trooper he was. Trotting along beside me, big smile on his face, stopping to mark only certain special trees or leaves. Practically swimming in a small pool of water as he drank. I thought it would be too cold for him, but he wadded right in after his bigger sister. What a great walk that was that day. Both dogs were so happy to be out in the woods off leash, enjoying all the wonderful smells around them. His pretty white coat was full of leaves and dirt, but he didn't care. He was just enjoying being a dog! And so today, I walked just the one dog...as we walked she hunted for chipmunks, sniffed in holes where they'd been, air scented as she's done on every one of our walks together. And it was a very enjoyable walk...except if I looked down beside me, there were no little dark eyes twinkling back up at me. There wasn't a little white curly coated face wearing a happy, tongue hanging out smile trotting along beside me. And so we walked, just Maggie and I...all the way out and all the way back, like we have so many times over the last several months. But from now on, that walk will never again be the same! Rest in Peace my happy little friend!
Why did I tell you this tragic story...for one very good reason. I want every dog owner out there to understand how important it is to teach your dog to WAIT!
Wait before you leave the house, wait before you exit the vehicle, wait before you have your food. The list is endless, but above all, wait until I say you can move! I've had so many people in classes ask me what the difference is between wait and stay. For my dogs, stay means stay where you are in the position you're in until I release you. So if they're in a sit stay they can't lay down or stand up. they must stay in the sit position until I give them the release word. Wait is a much more relaxed command, but is actually a more important behavior. Wait is simply, do not cross this imaginary line. For instance, in my van, wait means you CANNOT jump out of the van until I say it's okay. Even if the door is open and I'm doing something in the front seat. You must wait until I give the okay. You don't have to sit or down, but you cannot move forward through the open door. It's the same thing at home. Wait at the front door means you can go back into the house, you can lay down in front of the door, you can step side to side, but you CANNOT pass through the door opening! Mind you, this behavior doesn't develop over night. Like all dog training it takes time, patience, and consistency to become a known behavior for your dog. Start small by doing little things like asking your dog to wait before he or she leave their crate or before gaining access to their food bowl.
My heart goes out to my clients, I know that they are experiencing not only the sorrow of losing of their beloved family member, but also the guilt of his death occurring the way it did. It's so hard to lose them to illness or old age, but when it happens so suddenly and right before our eyes it's such a traumatic event.
Please contact me if you need help teaching your dog to wait, or any other real life skill. And love and appreciate them every day, because we never know when their time with us will come to an end!