Teaching your dog to stay is an excellent self-control exercise. It also has practical uses and will keep your dog safe. For example, teaching your dog to “stay” will prevent your dog from bolting out the front door or jumping on visitors. It will also keep your dog quiet and still while you’re waiting for an appointment in your vet’s clinic.
What you need
Your dog must know how to sit or drop to learn to “stay” on command.
Make sure you also have a stash of their favourite treats and a clicker for your training sessions.
How to teach your dog to stay
Step one, have your dog sit or drop. Click and reward them as soon as they sit or drop.
At this stage of your dog’s training, you’re not using any hand signals or verbal commands. Hand signals and verbal commands are introduced when your dog can comfortably hold a sit or drop position without you having to say anything or give any hand signals.
When it comes to teaching your dog to “stay”, work with your dog in whatever position you think your dog can comfortably hold for longer. It doesn’t matter whether you teach them to “stay” in a sitting position or “drop” position. Some dogs are naturally better sitters, others are more comfortable lying down. Find out what works best for your dog.
Increase the time your dog holds their sit or drop position
Once your dog is comfortable sitting or lying down in a “drop” position without you having to say anything or give any hand signals, you can take their training in the “stay” command to the next level.
Start to increase the length of time between when your dog goes into a sit or hold position, to when they hear the clicker.
A delay between when your dog sits or drops to when they hear the clicker, teaches your dog to hold their sit or drop position for longer.
An important tip: work at your dog’s pace
Remember to always work at your dog’s pace. We want to set them up for success. Be mindful of the length of time you’re asking your dog to hold a sit or drop position. Don’t push to hard too early.
If you push too hard too early, you’ll teach your dog to “self-release” which is not what you want. Self-releasing means your dog will learn to break their position before you ask them to move.
Hand signals and verbal commands
Once you reach the point where your dog is rock solid in holding a sit or drop position for some time, then you can introduce a hand signal and verbal command (“stay”).
By “rock solid”, we mean your dog will hold their sit or drop when you move and sit on the couch or take a few steps away.
A useful hand signal for the stay command is the “stop” sign with the palm of your hand facing your dog.
Increase the distance between you and your dog
Once your dog is rock solid in holding a sit or drop position, then you can start to increase the distance between you and your dog while they’re holding their position.
Have your dog hold a sit or drop position, turn your back from them and take a few steps away. If your dog holds their position after you turn and move, then click and reward them.
Again, remember to work at your dog’s pace. For some dogs, turning your back on them and taking a step or two away will be enough of a trigger for them to break position and move.
Avoid teaching your dog to self-release. If your dog moves or breaks their position before you ask them to release their position, then don’t reward them and go back a few stages in their training. Always work at your dog’s pace.
Add a release word
Once your dog is comfortable holding their sit or drop position with you turning and moving a few steps away, then you can slowly increase the distance between you and your dog before you release them from their position.
When you’ve increased the distance between you and your dog, you can start to introduce a “release word”. This tells your dog when they can break their sit or hold position. Examples of release words are “okay” or “yes”.
The next level in teaching your dog to “stay” is to introduce distractions during their training sessions.
Examples of distractions include: –
- Have your dog hold a sit or drop position, then grab a piece of rope and wave it on the floor near your dog (far enough away so your dog can’t reach it or get to it). Teach your dog they are not allowed to have the rope until they hold a sit or drop position and they hear their release word.
- Practice having your dog sit or drop and “stay” (hold their position) while you’re outside.
Introducing distractions into training sessions teaches your dog impulse control.
When it comes to teaching your dog to stay, here are some other important tips: –
- When starting out, keep training sessions short. Maybe no more than 15 minutes. Puppies or easily distracted dogs may need even shorter sessions. If a training session is too long, your dog will get distracted or bored and start to make mistakes.
- Always end on a positive note. Every dog is different. And we all have our off days. If your dog can’t seem to focus or hold their sit or hold position, then switch to something they know for a few minutes before ending the training session. You want your training sessions to be fun and rewarding for your dog so they will love training with you.
- Be patient and work at our dog’s pace. If your dog is having trouble holding their position or learning the stay command, try not to get frustrated. Take a break and try again later if you need to, and maybe try again with different treats.
At Fur Get Me Not, we are passionate about creating reliable manners based on a strong and positive relationship between you and your dog. In our basic manners course, we teach the critical commands including the “stay” command. Click here to book into our basic manners course.