Looking for a way to teach a dog to stay?
The “stay” command may seem simple, but there are actually several steps involved when it comes to teaching this. It does take some time and effort, but this is a part of basic obedience that is definitely worth mastering.
Choose Your Cue Words
Before you begin training a dog to do anything, you need to decide on your cue words.
In terms of the “stay” command, this means having a distinct beginning and ending.
Examples for the beginning would be “stay” or “wait”. For the ending, you could use “okay”, “done”, or “release”. A hand signal to accompany each cue word would also be useful.
Decided on your two words?
You can now get started with training…
The Very First Steps
To begin with, put your dog into the sit or down position.
Then, give your dog the stay command. Immediately after this, say your release cue and then reward your dog. Try to encourage your dog to move about after you say the release cue.
How should you reward your dog?
This depends on what motivates your dog the most. Some dogs are happy with praise and attention, while others need a treat to convince them to keep listening to you. You could also try a quick game as a reward if your dog is toy-oriented.
Repeat those steps several times over a few days. Make sure that you keep these training sessions short, as you don’t want your pooch getting bored.
After that, you can then move on to working on the three D’s – Duration, Distance and Distractions…
Increasing the Stay Duration
When you teach a dog to stay, you need to gradually build up the amount of time that your dog is staying for.
Begin as above, putting your dog into the sit or down position, and then telling him to stay. Then, count to three in your head before releasing and rewarding your pooch.
You can then slowly increase this by two seconds or so at a time. Make sure that you don’t try to jump ahead – it’s important to set your dog up for success, not failure!
What should you do if your dog moves before you say the release cue?
Don’t get frustrated. Simply put your dog back into position and start again. However, this time, don’t leave it so long before saying the release word.
Extending the Stay Distance
The distance in a stay refers to how far away you are from your dog. You could teach a dog to stay while you walk hundreds of meters away, but all of this begins with just half a step.
Position your dog as above and then give him the stay command.
Move one foot backwards and lean back slightly, before stepping forward to your dog again. Immediately give your release cue and reward your dog.
The next time you do this, take a proper step back before immediately returning to your dog and releasing.
Get the gist?
Carry on in this way – just one step at a time.
While you may be tempted to call your dog over to you to release him, this is something that you should avoid doing too much for now. It is fine to do this once in a while, but make sure that you also practice returning to your dog before releasing him too.
Are you using treats to reward your dog?
Make sure that your pooch can’t see these while you are walking away from him.
Because the treats will only act as a lure, encouraging him to stand up and follow you rather than remaining in his stay position.
Working with Distractions
Your dog will likely pick up on all of the above pretty quickly, especially if you are working on this in a calm and quiet environment. However, add in some distractions and everything could change. It is important to do this, however, since there will be many distractions about when you use the stay command in a real-life setting.
When you are trying to teach a dog to stay, you should only start working with distractions once your dog has a pretty solid understanding of the stay command.
What sort of distractions should you add in?
Well, if you’ve been working on the stay command in the house, move this outside.
Once your dog is responding well outdoors, ask a friend or family member to do something around the yard while you’re training. Your dog should be able to listen to you while completely ignoring the distraction.
You can then move on to working on the command in different environments. However, make sure that any setting you choose is a safe one – you don’t want to be training this command by the side of a busy road, for example.
The Advanced Stay
You’ve already worked on duration, distance and distractions, but there are always ways in which you can improve on each of these.
This will help to really cement the stay command in your dog’s head.
Here are a few ideas:
Duration – try having your dog stay while you’re doing different activities around the house, whether this may be watching TV, cooking, or anything else. Make sure that your dog only moves when you release him
Distance – try varying distances with your dog, from moving behind them or diagonally away from them to going completely out of sight
Distractions – try providing a few distractions yourself while working on stay. You could run circles around your dog, or even throw a ball around. It may also help to ensure that your dog knows the “leave it” command before trying this
It does take quite a bit of time and patience to teach a dog to stay, but this is a command really worth working on. Not only is it one that is so useful, but it could also prove to be essential to your dog’s safety at some point in the future.