One of the most difficult obedience training exercises for a dog to learn is usually the stay command. Rather than getting rewarded for a particular action, when teaching your dog to stay the reward comes when he does nothing. It can be a hard concept for him to understand at first, but with patience and consistent practice a sixty second sit-stay or down-stay should be a piece of cake.
The following are general instructions on how to teach your dog to stay. You can modify the exercise for sit-stays, down-stays, and stand-stays by adding the desired positional command.
Give a hand signal along with the command “Stay”
Give your dog a positional training command, such as sit. With your hand open and fingers together, bring your palm up in front of your dog six inches or so from his face and give the stay command in a firm voice.
Give feedback during the stay, such as “Good sit-stay”
Gently praise your dog periodically during the stay to let him know he’s on the right track. If you just reprimand him for breaking the stay, he won’t want to follow the command. If you praise him two or three times before he breaks the stay and only reprimand after breaking it, he’ll learn that staying is good and breaking the stay is bad. And that’s exactly what you want him to think.
End the stay with an emphatic “Good dog, Spot!” and a reward
Whenever you teach your dog an obedience command, you should set him up to succeed. Limit the time he needs to stay in the beginning to no more than five or six seconds. Then slowly increase the time and difficulty level. Move around him, clap your hands, and provide other distractions to build his reliability as he learns to stay. Of course, don’t ask too much of him too soon.
Tips for perfecting your dog’s stay
Keep the following tips in mind to quickly train your dog in the basic stay command.
Only use reprimands after your dog can hold a 30-second stay
Until he can hold a position for at least 30 seconds, your dog probably doesn’t understand the meaning of the command. Rather than using reprimands when he breaks a stay early on, start over and shorten the time. You want to ensure a lot of early successes to build your dog’s confidence and motivate him to train.
After he’s able to stay for at least 30 seconds, you can gently reprimand him for breaking the stay. Use instructional reprimands like “SIT! Staaaaay!” that both tell your dog he’s done something wrong through your tone of voice and give him a way to remedy the situation. Learn more about making obedience training corrections.
Pay attention to your dog
If you don’t pay attention while your dog is staying, he won’t pay attention to your command. Watch for signs that he’s ready to break the stay and cut the exercise short if necessary. Your focus should be on rewarding your dog for good responses, not punishing him for mistakes.
Teach your dog to stay for daily activities
Have your dog sit-stay before opening doors or down-stay to greet guests. Use the command in everyday situations to train a reliable response and ensure he understands the value of staying in place.
Training a dog to stay can be more challenging than some of the basic obedience training commands. However, if you anticipate your dog’s needs and set him up to succeed, he’ll be well on his way to staying put when asked.