The stay cue is one of the most important cues to teach dogs. Everyone would like to enjoy a patio lunch at a restaurant with your dog laying at your feet and this can best be accomplished with teaching a strong stay cue. Stay is great when your hands are full and you need to drop the leash for a minute. Stay is also great if you are inviting guests into the home or if you want to stop and talk to a neighbor while out on a walk. A dog that is in a down stay can’t jump up on someone or be rude!
Before we get started on teaching stay I want to address a common mistake people make when they are teaching their dogs to stay. This mistake actually teaches dogs to break their stay position.
Dogs learn everything through anticipation. If you get your keys may they anticipate a car ride. You get your the dog leash they will anticipate a walk.
If you put your dog in a stay, walk away and call them what do you think you are teaching them?
You are teaching them to anticipate breaking the stay position.
It is fairly rare that in a real life scenario you will have to walk away from your dog twenty feet while he holds a stay then have to call your dog to you.
It is more likely you will have your dog sit stay while you are grabbing your mail, unlocking your car or talking to someone on a walk. It is really easy to call your dog out of the stay position, it is much harder to go back and fix the habit of a dog who has learned how to break the stay. Don’t call your dog out of the stay ALWAYS return to your dog.
STAY DISTANCE STEP 1: Teaching your dog to stay if you walk away
We won’t say “Stay” for this step.
Start with your dog in the down position. Once they are down we can mark with “Yes” and give a treat. Place a flat palm towards your dog and take one step back then immediately one step forward.
When you step forward, if your dog is still in the down position say “yes” and place the treat on the floor where your dog can easily reach it without breaking the down. Go right into your next stay. Don’t reposition them if you can help it. If your dog breaks the down say “at” and put your dog back into the down position. This time when your dog goes back into the down position say “Good”, but don’t treat the down, and place a flat palm towards your dog. Repeat this step you can do five repetitions where your dog doesn’t break.
STAY DISTANCE STEP 2:
Great job guys! This next step is going to be much like the last step except now we are going to gradually add distance. Start with our dogs in the down position. Once they are down we can mark the correct behavior by saying “Yes” and treat the correct behavior.
Then use your hand signal (a flat palm facing your dog) don’t say stay yet, and take two steps away from your dog. Immediately walk back to your dog and place the treat right between your dogs front paws on the floor. Repeat this step until you can get five correct in a row without your dog breaking the down position. Remember not to say “stay” yet. We know it is tempting, but it is important that you only say “Yes” for now.
STAY DISTANCE STEP 3:
CONGRADULATIONS! You finally get to say the “S” word.
Just like the last two steps we are going to start with our dogs in the down position. Once they are down we can mark and treat the correct behavior. After treating your dog use your hand signal (a flat palm facing dog) as you say “STAY”, and take three steps away from your dog. Immediately walk back to your dog and place the treat right between your dogs front paws on the floor. Repeat this step until you can get five correct in a row without your dog breaking the down position.
For every 5 stays your dog can get correct in a row you can now add another step away from your dog. If your dog breaks 3 stays in a row you have to go back two steps. Just remember that they should be in the same position you left your dog in when you give them their treat.
STAY DISTRACTION STEP 1: Teaching your dog to stay even when there is a reason to get up
I’m excited for this next step because it’s where we really get to see dogs start to exercise their “Impulse control” or doggy self control!
Get your dog into the down position say “Yes” and reward your dog’s down. Have a treat prepared in the hand you have NOT been using for a hand signal. Now, say “stay” as you show your dog your palm. Very slowly take your treat and move it from your shoulder to your hip. If your dog holds the stay position raise your treat hand back up to your shoulder then bring it to your dog. Feed your dog the treat in a place he doesn’t have to get up from the down position. If your dog breaks the stay when you move the treat say “at” and reset your dog in the down position. Don’t treat your dog for a down if he has broken the stay. Instead, repeat stay and slowly start to bring your hand down. If you think your dog will break bring your hand back up. Go ahead and practice these until you can get five in a row where your dog doesn’t break the down position.
STAY DISTRACTION STEP 2:
This step is going to be much like the last step, but our distraction is going to be a little harder. Just like last time place your dog in the down position and mark and reward the behavior. Then cue your dog to stay using your hand cue and say “stay”. Now lower your treat from your shoulder to your knee very slowly. If your dog holds the down without trying to snatch the treat give your dog a treat. If your dog starts to break the down immediately say “At” raise your treat back up and reset your dog into the down position. Repeat this until you can do five correctly in a row.
STAY DISTRACTION STEP 3:
This time bring the treat from your shoulder all the way to the floor. If your dog doesn’t break the down position bring the treat to your dog and say “yes” as you place the treat where your dog can easily reach it. If your dog breaks say “At” and reset your dog in the down position. Don’t treat your dog for a down if he has broken the stay. Instead, repeat stay and slowly start to bring your hand down. If you think your dog will break bring your hand back up.
STAY DURATION STEP 1: Teaching you dog to stay for a period of time
Place your dog in a down mark with the word “Yes” and reward. Now, say “stay” and stand next to your dog without moving for 5 seconds if your dog holds it say “Yes” and deliver the treat to the floor in from of your dog. Repeat this stay exercise until you can do five in a row without your dog breaking the position. If your dog breaks the down say “at” and reset them into the down. Repeat until your dog can do five in a row without breaking the down.
STAY DURATION STEP 2:
For this step we are going to ask our dog to stay for a little bit longer. The longer our dog holds a stay the harder it is for them. Which means that they are learning Doggy Impulse Control. Place your dog in a down say “Yes” and reward with a treat. Now, say “stay” and stand next to your dog without moving for 15 seconds if your dog holds it say “Yes” and deliver the treat to the floor in front of your dog. Repeat this until you can do five in a row without your dog breaking the position. If your dog breaks the down mark with a “at” and reset them into the down. Repeat until your dog can do five in a row.
Once your dog does five, 15 second stays that you can continue to build the length of time you ask your dog to stay adding about ten more seconds for every 5 they can do correctly in a row, but if your dog breaks three stays in a row you have to make it easier by asking them to stay for less time. By making a mistake and breaking the stay your dog is saying “This is a little to hard. I need more practice with it a little easier.”
Once your dog is very solid at preforming the above exercises you can take your training up to the next level by using the 3 D’s of Doggy Impulse Control. When you are practicing the three D’s, distance, duration and distraction try to think of each stay as a question for example….
You might ask your dog, “Can you stay if I take ten steps back?” If your dog holds the stay the first time you attempt this he answered your question with “YES”, if he breaks he says “that’s to hard for me can you make it easier for me?”
Another example might be if you asked your dog, “Can you stay if I lower a treat to the floor?” He may answer that question by holding the stay, so you could also ask your dog “Can you stay if I drop the treat?” or “Can you stay while I lower your ball?” The more questions like these you can help your dog successfully answer the better of a stay expert your dog will be.