This cue allows you to get out of the car, and get yourself together, before getting the dog out, or can allow you to get your house keys out of your purse while standing at the front door holding 3 bags of groceries, your purse, your house keys, and the dog's leash. This differs from the "stay" command in that the dog can wait in any position it wants to: the command is not "position dependent" -- and yes, dogs can differentiate between the two.
As with other commands, once you've taught this in one place, under one set of circumstances, it will need to be generalized to other places and circumstances. I taught this to my own dogs using food treats at first, then graduating to the tug-rope (which is a lot more motivating -- they really want that rope!), then by having them "wait" before entering buildings, other people's homes, getting into and out of the car -- it has many, many uses!
Note: you can teach your dog to "wait" at the top or bottom of the stairs so you can go first (makes things a little less "iffy", or you can teach him to "go ahead" in either circumstance... you'll need someone to keep the dog in position at first, until you give the release word in either situation.
The hand signal that I use with the "stay" is either hand, flat with palm toward the dog, fingertips pointing to the ceiling. The "wait" is the same, only with just the index finger pointing up -- the same one used by most humans to mean "wait a minute".
Using treats , start with one dog. Hold the treat in the palm of your hand, have the dog sit, and say "wait" -- immediately give him the treat, before he has the chance to make a grab for it. After a few repetitions of this, wait one second after the command to give the treat -- just a slight hesitation. Gradually build to 5 seconds or so. Then, teach the same to the other dog. Move them to different rooms individually, and teach the same. Then, have them sit side by side, use their name plus the "wait" command, and treat the other dog -- for example: "Zoey, wait", and treat Cis (then, treat Zoe for waiting); then, "Cis, wait", and treat Zoey (and treat Cis for waiting). Work up to having the waiting dog wait for 5 seconds or so, and treat the other dog. Then, reverse. This is a game -- the dogs will do this willingly, if you keep things fast-paced and light-hearted! Remember: if behavior starts to "fall apart" at any point, it means you're moving too fast in the progression, usually increasing time or distance too quickly. Slow down, find a place to re-start, and proceed with the exercises.
Move outside to the car. Practice waiting to get in, and then waiting to get out -- actually get in the car, shut the door, sit there for a few minutes (or just start the car, maybe turn it around), and then get out. As with any other behavior, getting in and out of the car is a behavior that gets better with practice... so, spend a few days perfecting this, to make things more enjoyable for both of you! Then, start over -- even going so far as to go back in the house. Practice makes perfect, and this all makes for a calmer dog in all these situations.
Then, incorporate a toy -- the tug-rope is a favorite of my dogs. Remember that this cueis not position dependent -- the dog is free to move around, watch, even bark in excitement -- he's just not allowed to participate by actually touching the tug-rope. You'll have to remind him of this -- keep one hand free, for this purpose. Don't play for too long with either dog -- you don't want them to lose interest -- the purpose is for everyone to have fun, but at the same time, you're maintaining control through the "wait" -- it teaches them to remain in this general area until released -- and, if you teach them this using something this rewarding, you'll have more control when you ask them to "wait" to go play with that dog!
Brenda Rushman, CCBC