I am going to make bread sticks and I don't want them to rise too soon. It is hard to predict what time my husband will get home from work. Can I slow the dough from rising too soon? The recipe says first rise about 1 to 2 hours and then let rest for 20 minutes. Can I put them in a cool place or should I refrigerate them?
Yes, you can easily slow down the rising time by lowering the temperature of the dough ("retarding" it, as the pros say). You can either put it in a cool place or refrigerate it; the colder it is, the slower it will rise. Dough can even be frozen and proofed later, though sometimes that will make it a bit wonky when it thaws.
For smaller items (rolls, typically, but I think it'd work for breadsticks), I'll let the dough proof the first time, shape it and place onto a sheet pan, cover it to prevent drying out, and then put the sheet pan in the fridge. When I come home from work, I'll pull the pan out to come up to temp some while the oven is pre-heating. (more details)
In that case, I was leaving the bread in the fridge for many hours. Likely about 8 hours, to replace your typical 1-2 hour rise. For your situation, I might put it in the fridge after 1/2 to 3/4 of the rising time, and then have your husband let you know when he's leaving work, so you can better time when it get it into the oven.
Don't try to refrigerate for the first rise, unless you're going to give it sufficient time to come up to room temperature or it's a recipe specifically designed for shaping right out of the fridge (like in that answer I linked to). If you don't, the dough can start shredding and tearing, and is very difficult to work with.
Yes you can slow things down by cooling the dough somehow but there's no real need to.
I frequently leave dough to rise for several hours when it's still in the bowl and unshaped. If I'm in, I'll knock it back and reshape it every hour or so but if not it's never been a problem. I'm not too concerned about slowing things down but if it's really warm I might put the dough in the cellar where it's cooler.
The only time I'm careful about how long I leave the dough is when it's shaped and proving. If you leave it too long in this state the gluten can collapse and the bread will lose structure. If this does happen you can rescue it by knocking it back, re-shaping it and leaving it again.
Keep you dough in refrigerator and the proving process will slow down. According to me the colder it is the slower it is the process of proving. In my case I could see that the process slowed down to almost 6 times.