“Stay” is another basic command that all dogs should learn how to do. Being able to hold still for any period of time is a huge challenge for some dogs, especially energetic puppies. How to train your dog to stay is a command that will require many training sessions and countless repetitions to achieve mastery, but well worth the work. For puppies, shorter stay times should be considered victories that you can build upon. You can always increase the duration of the stay once your dog understands the concept, but you need to start somewhere. Many short, successful stays are better than a long stay that your dog cannot hold reliably.
The technique I use when teaching the Stay Command relies on using a Clicker to mark the desired behavior. You can also use a marker word (such as “Yes”). The verbal command that I use is “Stay”. You can choose a verbal command that works best for you, but always stay consistent. Your dog should have a reliable Sit Command and Down Command before learning this command. You will need to decide what position you want your dog to hold while they are staying in one spot. Personally, I keep my girls in the Down position because it’s more comfortable for them to hold for multiple minutes at a time.
Steps for Teaching “Stay”:
- Give your dog the Down Command. Stand right in front of him and look him in the eyes to keep his attention on you.
- Say “Stay” and put your hand out with your palm toward his nose in a Stop position.
- When your dog holds the position for a second or two, click to mark the behavior and give him a treat.
- Repeat this process, each time increasing the duration that he is required to hold the position before you click and offer the treat.
Note: There are generally two schools of thought on releasing your dog from the Stay position. One group of people believe it is perfectly acceptable for you to give your dog a release word (such as “OKAY”) and have him come to you to receive his treat. On the other side, the people believe you should always make your dog hold the Stay until you return to him and release him from there. Personally, I think it is easier and more reliable if you teach your dog to wait until you return to him to break the position. As long as he knows the routine, he trusts you will return and he will hold the position. If you release him from a distance, he will be focusing on finding you to get his treat, rather than focusing on staying put.
This command takes a while to master and it will take lots of patience from you. Your dog will likely break the Stay on many occasions, and you should NEVER punish him for that. When he breaks the Stay, immediately say “Down! Stay,” and try again with a shorter duration.
As your dog gets better at this command, start to increase the distance between you and the dog as well as the duration that the dog must hold the Stay to get the treat. For example, give your dog the Stay Command and then walk a few feet away. If he holds the stay position, click and reward the behavior. You can gradually increase the distance from there.
Try getting your dog to stay while you are out of sight. Give him the Stay Command and then walk around the corner or into another room in your house.
If you have questions or need additional instructions or descriptions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you.