Training Your Dog to Stay

Training your dog to stay takes patience. It's important to understand how your dog's mind works when teaching stay so you can help him learn what you want without too much frustration.

Teaching Stay

Teaching your dog a stay command is simple. Teaching him how to hold it is a little bit more challenging. Put your dog in a sit. Praise and reward for the correct position. Then, give your dog a release command, such as "OK" or "release" that tells your dog he's done with the sit.

If you teach sit this way, you don't even need to say "stay." However, if you feel more comfortable adding the extra word, add "stay" after the reward for the correct position. If your dog jumps up after the reward, delay the reward until after the release.

Using a hand signal can be helpful as well. Even if you don't add the stay, putting your hand up in a stop motion can help guide your dog.

Remember to release quickly the first few times so your dog knows that he's waiting for the release. If you've never taught the release with the sit, he doesn't know and will jump up on his own if you wait too long.

Teach a down-stay the same way. When your dog is in the down, put a couple of treats between your dog paws so you have the chance to stand up and release. Once your dog learns what he's waiting for, you can phase out the treats.

Increasing the Stay

There's always more stay training that you can do. Can he stay for 5 minutes? With your back turned? When you leave the room? When you jump up and down? When you sit down? With another dog present?

The important thing to understand about dogs is that they don't generalize like humans do. Each time you change the variables on your dog— increase the time, increase the distance, add a distraction—your dog has to learn a new command. Though it will get easier each time you practice, your dog may not move along as quickly as you think he should.

To reduce the frustration from this, reduce your expectations each time you raise the criteria. For example, if your dog can stay for 30 seconds with you standing 5 feet away, don't expect him to be able to stay for 30 seconds when you move to 10 feet. When you increase the distance, drop the time back down.

A good rule of thumb is: If your dog breaks the stay, you're moving too fast. Go back to the last place where you were successful and build from there.

If your dog does break the stay, put him back in the spot you wanted him, without rewarding him, and reduce the time you expect him to stay. Release him to praise and petting. Then, he will remember that he needs to wait.

Stay Positive

Stay training is often frustrating because owners expect too much too quickly and think their dog know what to do but is just refusing to do it. This isn't true.

You want stay training to be fun, so always end on a good note. If you are starting to feel frustrated, end the training session and try again another time. Give your dog one last easy stay and be happy with him.

Keeping sessions short will also help. Don't practice stay for longer than a minute or two. Then, you and your dog can both enjoy training.