How to Train a Dog to Stay

The “stay” command is an essential basic dog command that all dogs should learn. Almost as important as coming when called, the stay cue can prevent your dog from getting involved in dangerous situations. It will also allow you to keep your dog still and calm while you take care of household chores, entertain guests, or bring it to public places.

This command training is not very difficult to achieve. Before you start, read some our tips for effectiveness below:

Tips for training your dog to stay

1. Train your dog only when you’re in the mood for it. You should be fresh and ready during a training session with your dog. If you’re not feeling well or are too busy, you might not be able to devote the necessary energy to a training session. Especially if your dog is young, he may be disobedient. If you’re in a bad mood, you might end up yelling at your dog, which will turn the training session into a negative experience

2. Select an appropriate environment. The training environment should be an area that the dog is comfortable with that is relatively free from distractions. (a room indoors can be an ideal place)

3. Plan on short training sessions. You’ll need to practice it consistently with your dog and should be accomplished in five- to 10-minute training increments, two to three times per day. A successful “stay” occurs when your dog does not move at all from the original position. When training, start with one to two second periods of staying and work your way up to several minutes.

4. Know what rewards your dog likes most. Training will involve a lot of positive feedback. For dogs, this is usually some kind of treat. Find out what your dog likes and make that the reward for a good training session.

5. Once your dog becomes an expert, you won’t have to give a treat each time. It’s a good idea to give treats occasionally in order to reinforce the behavior.

6. Teach your dog to sit first. When training your dog to stay, you’ll usually have him start in the sitting position. An obvious prerequisite would be to make sure he knows the command to sit. Read Teach Your Dog to Sit to take care of this step.

Teaching Your Dog to Stay

1. Have your dog sit in a comfortable spot. 

You’ll want to start with your dog sitting a good spot. Make sure the ground isn’t wet, cold, or covered with anything that might make your dog uncomfortable

2. Place your palm out in front of the dog’s face while saying ‘stay.‘ 

The combination of the verbal cue and the hand signal will help your dog associate these commands with staying where he is.

  • Repeat ‘stay’ a few times before doing anything else so your dog learns the word. Say it in a happy tone. Save your firm tone for when your dog makes a mistake.
  • Be sure to use these same commands every time you tell your dog to stay. If you don’t it will take him longer to understand what you want him to do.

3. Take one or two steps back. 

Keep your hand out and keep saying ‘stay’ while you do this.

  • Your dog will probably get up and follow you the first few times you do this. When he starts to come up from his sitting position, correct him with a ‘no’ or ‘ap ap ap’ in a firmer tone than you said ‘stay’ in.
  • Praise him when he sits back down. Go back to your happy tone when your dog remains still or sits back down after you give your corrective command.
  • Repeat this step as needed. This first step will probably be the hardest. Your untrained dog will want to follow you when you start walking away. Keep correcting him to sit back down, and remember to not give him a treat if he gets up and runs over to you. This just teaches him that getting up will get him a reward.

4. Give your dog a treat when he stays. 

Remember, positive reinforcement is the best way to train your dog. When he stays in place after you take a few steps back, that means he’s starting to understand the command. Reinforce his obedience with a treat.

  • Don’t have him come over to you to give him the treat yet. This teaches him that when he gets up he gets rewarded. You want to teach him that staying in place gets him the reward. Walk back to him, say some words of praise in a happy tone, and then give him the treat. When he gets better at staying, then you can add the command for him to come to you.

5. Have your dog come to you. 

Once your dog has gotten proficient at staying, you can complete the task by having him come to you. Come up with a word that will signal that the dog is released from the stay position. Dropping your hand and saying ‘okay’ is a popular signal. Then when the dog comes to you, give him a treat and praise him.

  • Whatever word you use to release your dog from the stay, make sure you say it in a different tone than you would when normally speaking. Otherwise your dog might start expecting a treat every time you say ‘okay’ or another normal word.

6. Increase the distance you step back gradually. 

When your dog gets proficient at staying when you’re a few steps away, start increasing the distance. Go 5 steps back, then 10. Then see if you can get across the whole yard. The point is to make sure the dog stays put as long as you continue telling him to.

  • Remember to praise the dog and give a treat every time he succeeds.
  • If at any point the dog gets up and runs to you without you giving the command, don’t give him a treat.

*Using More Advanced Techniques

Teach your dog to stay while lying down. There may be situations when you want your dog to lie down and stay where he is. For example, if someone who is afraid of dogs comes over to your house, he or she may be more comfortable with your dog lying down. To teach your dog to stay while lying down, use all the steps from Part 2, just start from the lie down position.

Increase the length of time your dog stays. When your dog is comfortable with you being a good distance away, start increasing the amount of time you have him stay. Start with a few seconds, then gradually increase. Work your way up to several minutes if you can.

Turn around as you walk away from your dog. While your dog learns to stay, you should stay facing him. As he improves, start turning your back as you move away from him. The lack of facial contact or hand motions will be a new challenge for your dog.

Distract your dog while he stays. When you use the stay command in real life, it’s possible that something will come along and distract your dog. You’ll want to teach him to maintain his concentration even if this happens. There are several ways you can do this. Also don’t be afraid to come up with a few of your own. Remember, if your dog gets up during any distractions, start over.

  • Wave your other arm while your dog stays.
  • Start jumping up and down.
  • Bounce a tennis ball as you walk backwards.
  • Have someone walk by while your dog stays. Then have them walk or run by.
  • Have someone bring another dog passed your dog.

Go out of sight. When your dog gets very good at staying, you can try this advanced technique. Try turning a corner or stepping inside for a few seconds, then return. Then gradually work up and see how long your dog will stay in place with you out of sight.

Continue read: How to train a dog to lie down


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