Little Red the Vicktory dog in training

Imagination time! Pretend that a friend shows up with your favorite treat in the whole wide world. Pretend your friend places the treat on the kitchen counter, but you have to sit and stare at it, not moving a muscle, until they tell you it’s yours. Sound like a good time? Hmm. Little Red the Vicktory dog, who was rescued in NFL player Michael Vick's dog fighting bust, doesn’t think so, either. But she’ll get there!

Little Red the Vicktory dog gets training in how to wait

The Vicktory dogs, once living on the property of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, have been making great progress in their basic training at Best Friends. They have now all learned how to sit, even Her Highness Little Red. (Little Red was a real teacher’s pet, who thought that play time was much more interesting than training.) Next comes the "wait" training.

Wait training teaches a dog how to watch for signals. Here’s what happens. The trainer places a treat all the way down to the ground. The idea is that the dog won’t try to snatch the treat away. Getting the treat all the way to the ground is only the beginning, though. Then the caregiver begins to walk away from the dog, all the while with that treat right under their nose. "I can smell it… so close!"

The dog continues to wait until the caregiver gives a release signal. At that moment, the treat is inhaled at last. To be fair, this training stuff really must seem a little silly to the dogs at first. You know, there’s food on the ground and they’re supposed to pretend it’s not there? Hello? But it really does pay off in the long run. Teaching dogs to wait for cues and signals from their people helps them to think and pay attention. Which also helps them to gain confidence and solve problems in the future, something that’s extra important for the Vicktory dogs after all they’ve lived through. "Ha! You think this is hard? Try waiting, pal!"

Vicktory dogs gaining confidence

In reality, the Vicktory dogs are picking up the wait technique a whole lot faster than they learned to sit. Part of the reason for this recent success is probably because they’ve been getting past the confidence barriers that were blocking their way when they first arrived at the sanctuary. Now they’re just cruising along, doing great. And even Little Red realizes that, silly though these exercises may seem, there’s always a treat at the end. And that’s worth waiting for.

You can help support the former Michael Vick dogs by sponsoring one.

Photo by Gary Kalpakoff