How To Teach Your Dog To Stay – Part One

For many dog owners, teaching their dog to stay is one of the most difficult training tasks among all the other basic commands. To set your dog, and you, up for success, the first thing to remember is that you need a definite beginning and ending to the task.

So before you begin, pick what is called a release word that will let your dog know that the stay is over and that he is released from the command. Common release words are “all done,” “OK,” and “release.” Do not hold any treats or food in your hand while you are teaching this command, otherwise he will be tempted to follow you.

The first step is to teach your dog the release word. For our purposes here, let’s say our release word is “OK.”

Have your dog get into whatever position you want to start from, such as a sit, down or even from a standing position. Then, give your dog the “stay” command and follow it almost immediately by saying “OK,” which is our release word.

If your dog doesn’t move after you say the release word, then step back or clap your hands to get him to move. Before moving on to the next part of this training, be sure to not always call your dog to come to you after you release him from the stay, as you don’t want him to be always expecting that. Give him the “stay” command and practice walking away from him a bit and then returning before you release him

Once you have successfully paired the stay command with your release word, it’s time to work on the Three D’s: Duration, Distance and Distractions.

As you might imagine, the length of time your dog is in the stay is known as the duration. So begin as usual by positioning your dog in the down position, a sit or stand. Give him the “stay” command and then don’t move for the count of three. Next release your dog by using your release word.

Then simply begin to increase the time demand on your dog while he is in the stay, but by no more than two or three seconds each time.

What do you do if your dog breaks his stay?

Simply reset him back to his starting position, then give the command and go back to the lesser time which he was already able to hold. Then gradually increase from there.

OK, so you have plenty to practice on right now. In Part Two of this article, we talk about the next two D’s, Distance and Distraction, plus how to “proof” the stay behavior. 

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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