Teach Your Dog To Stay

Teach Your Dog To Stay

September 22, 2017


Difficulty: Average

Prerequisites: Sit, Down

Equipment: training treats, clicker (optional)

Time Required: About 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day

"Stay" is an essential basic command that all dogs should know. It isn’t terribly difficult to teach and you’ll use it all the time, usually combined with a sit or stay command. You can use this one when someone comes knocking on your door or when there’s a situation you want your dog to stay away from - like a rattlesnake on the trail, a tempting plate of chocolate cookies on the table, or a skunk cruising through your yard. Stay also opens up the world of fun indoor games, like “find it."

What Does Stay Look Like?

A successful “stay” occurs when your dog does not move at all from his original position, whether that be sitting, standing, or lying down. “Stay” should always be used with a release command, like “all done” or “okay” so your dog knows that there is a start and end to the command.

When training, you’re going to start with 1-2 second intervals of holding “stay” (you gotta start somewhere!) and you will work your way up to several minutes. Plan to set aside 5-10 minutes a day, 2-3 times a day to work on this after your dog has mastered “sit” and “down”.


How to Train Your Dog to Stay

Phase 1: The Basics

  1. Find a quiet, fenced-in area, that is free from distractions. Stand in front of your dog and ask him to sit.

  2. Say “stay” in a firm, clear voice while holding one hand up, palm out, in a stop motion. 

  3. Wait 1-2 seconds. If your dog does not move, mark the behavior with a click or a “yes!”. Give him a treat and praise. 

  4. Release your dog from the command by saying “all done” or “okay" and walking a step or two off to the side. Encourage your dog to move by saying his name or clapping your hands. 

  5. When he is up from his sitting position, ask him to sit again.

  6. Repeat steps 2-4 at least 10 times. Remember that you are only asking for 1-2 second “stays” at this time.

Phase 2: Stay A Little Longer

  1. Instruct your dog to sit down again and praise him when he does.

  2. Say "stay" again with the hand motion while taking one step back, keeping your hand signal up.

  3. If he stays: use a clicker or mark the action with a “yes!” or “good dog”, step forward, back in front of your dog, treat, and praise. If he moves: say something like “oops!” or “uh oh” and simply start the sequence over - just ask him to sit again without giving him a treat. Be patient here.

  4. After you have praised your dog for staying, release your dog from the command by saying “all done” or “okay” and encourage her to move like you did in the first phase.

  5. Repeat this process 10 more times, taking one step back while you ask for a “stay” and then one step forward to reward your dog. Make sure you remember to release the command every time.

Phase 3: Add Distance

Once your dog can reliably “stay” while you take one step back, you are going to repeat the same sequence, gradually taking more steps back and increasing the time period between “stay” and “all done.” 

Phase 4: Add Distractions

  1. Once your dog can stay for 30 seconds or more, you can start to add distractions, increase the distance that you move away from him, and practice leaving your dog’s line of sight by walking around the corner of a building or standing behind a tree.

    Try placing one of his favorite toys on the ground in front of him after you’ve asked him to stay and have him hold off from grabbing it for several seconds. If he lunges for it, pick it up before he reaches it and say “oops!” or “uh oh!” and try again.

Phase 5: Solidify The Command

Like other commands, you should continue to practice “stay" by incorporating the cue into your daily routine. Asking your dog to “sit” and then “stay” before every meal is an easy way to strengthen the command. If your dog forgets to stay and lunges for his food bowl, pick it up before he gets to it. Ask your dog to “sit” and then “stay” again. He is only allowed to eat after you release the command by saying “okay."

You can also practice this in front of an open door that leads to your yard or outdoors. Put him on a leash, ask him to “sit” then “stay” and then open the door. If he starts to move, shut the door immediately and say “uh oh!” or “oops!” if he stays for several seconds, give him your release cue and allow him to exit the door. Exiting the door, in this case, is his reward for a job well done.

Training Tips & Common Problems

  • Keep training sessions short and remain positive. While your dog is getting the hang of “stay” remember to celebrate each time he holds her position, even if it’s just for a single second.

  • Continue to practice short distances and short durations until your dog has this command down cold. Repeat the same sequence many, many times before you add anything or make it harder.

  • If your dog isn’t getting it, go back to the last sequence that he was able to do and practice that. Build on his skills slowly.

  • Over time, you should gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. Remain in your dog’s sight until she understands how to stay. Then, you can try leaving the room or asking someone to knock on the door after you give the stay command. He should not move at all despite the distractions.

  • Once your dog becomes an expert at staying, you no longer need to give a treat every time, only occasionally. However, rewarding with praise and a nice head pat is always a good idea.

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