How to Train Your Dog to Stay

One of the most difficult commands for you dog to learn will be the ‘Stay’ command.  This command is easiest taught in stages and must be very well defined.  Once your dog grasps the command you will be able to teach them almost anything as this will be one of the hardest trainings.



The first and most important rule of the ‘stay’ command is to have a definite beginning and definite ending.  This means you need to pair your ‘stay’ command with a release word that signals that the ‘stay’ is finished. Common release words include “Free,” Release,” and “All Done.” Choose one word as your release word and use only that word consistently when the ‘stay’ is finished.  If you are not consistent with the one word you will confuse your dog and won’t be successful with the training.


Your first step is going to be teaching your dog their release word.  Start by positioning your dog in either a sit or down position.  Give your dog the stay command, then immediately follow it with their release word and give a treat/reward.  Your dog may not immediately move following your release word.  You can step back, clap your hands, or otherwise engage in positive interaction to cue them that it is OK to move at this time.  Keep in mind that you do not give your stay command with food in your hand, this may lure your dog to follow you.


Do not always call your dog to come to you from a ‘stay’. This will cause him to anticipate a recall. Practice by leaving your dog and returning to him before giving the release word.  Once your dog has successfully learned his release word it is time to move onto to the next step.  This step involves duration (the amount of time you want your dog to ‘stay’), distance (how far from your dog you go), and distractions (outside influences that occur during your dog’s ‘stay’).


To begin training duration, position your dog in sit or down, and give your ‘stay’ command.  Without moving count to three, and then release your dog using your release word.  Slowly increase the time you ask your dog to stay by two to three second intervals. If your dog does break his stay, reset him and ask him to stay for a lesser time in which he was successful and continue slowly building back up.


Next work on distance, this step may be a little harder than you anticipate, don’t rush it.  Teaching distance happens literally a half step at a time. Position your dog as you wish and give your dog his stay command.  Step back with one foot, lean back, then step back to your dog and release him.  Next, take one full step back then return to your dog for the release and a reward. Continue slowly, adding only one step at a time.   Remember, do not have food in the hand in which you give your dog the stay command. Also, return to your dog before you release him, and do not always call him out of a stay.


Lastly are distractions. Distractions are anything large or small that happen during your dog’s ‘stay’.  It is imperative to have a strong foundation with your release word, stay duration, and distance before you try and add distractions. Once distractions are added, start with something easy at home or in the back yard, and work your way up to more distractions in various environments.  It can help to use higher value treat rewards when introducing and increasing distractions.


If you get frustrated with your dog, don't show it.  If you're angry at your dog, it might scare him and discourage him.  Don't be impatient. It might take some time for the dog to understand what your teaching him.  Most of all, Good Luck with your training!



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