A crucial part of raising a well-behaved dog is proper dog training. Without formal training, your dog will not know how to behave in specific situations. One of the crucial commands that your dog must learn at an early age is stay. When you teach your dog to stay, training him in other commands becomes much easier. 

Thus, when starting with the dog training process, focus on teaching your puppy the sit and stay commands first before progressing to the other commands. There are plenty of situations where these commands will prove very handy. 

Teach your dog to stay
Teach your dog to stay

Why teach a dog to stay?

The stay commands allow you to keep your dog under control in a variety of situations. Let’s take an example. Suppose you are vacuuming the floor, and your pup wants to play with the vacuum monster. You ask your pup to stay on the bed, so he does not get in the way. Another scenario. You broke a flower pot. The floor is covered in mud. If your pup wakes through it, the whole house will be muddy. Thus, you ask your pup to stay on the couch while you clean up the floor. 

Another reason dog guardians teach a dog to stay is because it can help get the dog’s impulsive behavior under control. Puppies ‌lack impulse control. They have to be taught the right mannerisms and water to behave. Their impulsiveness can also put them in line of danger. Hence, it is imperative that you teach the puppy to stay and sit before you progress to other commands. 

What supplies will you need to teach a dog to stay?

Dog training is an important task and must not be taken lightly. For a proper training session, there are certain supplies that you will need. Ensure that you have all the required items with you before you start the training process. 

What you will need:

  • A quiet room
  • Treats for positive reinforcement
  • Time (at least 15 minutes)
  • Ton of patience
  • An enthusiastic attitude

A step-by-step guide to teach a dog to stay

Ensure that you have chosen a quiet space for training.

Whether it is a dog or a puppy whom you are training, they get distracted easily. Therefore, as guardians, it is your responsibility to ensure that there is nothing in the environment to distract your dog from the training. If your pup is constantly distracted, it will not only impede the training process but will also cause a lot of frustration. Therefore, ensure that the room you are using to train does not have dog toys or any other items that your dog usually likes to play with. 

This way, you can have your dog focus on you and what you are saying instead of the surrounding environment. 

Get good treats

The primary reason boost dog training methods fail is because of the fault of the dog trainer or guardian. In most cases, dog trainers do not give enough importance to the quality of the treats they are using for the training. Your dog follows you for two reasons. One is treats. Other is affection. It is not feasible to use affection for training. They must use good treats along with affection for a successful training session. 

When you select the treat, make sure that it is not only of good quality. It should also be well-liked by your pup. If your pup does not like the taste of the treat, it will not motivate him enough to follow your command. It does not matter even if you get treats of the best brand and highest quality. If your dog is not a fan of the treats, training will become a very difficult endeavor. Thus, always use high-value treats. The treats should be irresistible to your dog, and he should be ready to do anything to get the treat in your hand.

step by step guide
step by step guide

Train your dog to sit

Before you start with the stay commands, you must teach your dog to sit. Sitting is the first step to learning to stay. Sitting also helps to calm the dog down and is the first step of impulse control. 

When you teach a dog to stay, you start with the sit command. First, you ask your dog to sit. If you decide to skip this step, you will never be successful at teaching a dog to stay. 

Reward the behavior

The moment your dog’s butt touches the ground, mark and reward the behavior. If you are using clicker training methods, then use the clicker and offer the treat to your pup. Your pup needs to know that his behavior has been rewarded. 

Add in the command STAY.

Now is the time to add in the command STAY. Start with giving your dog a verbal cue. You can also use a hand signal for this. Hold your palm in a vertical position and point it towards your dog. Hold that position for a few seconds. If your dog does not move towards you, remove the hand signal, use the clicker, and reward the behavior. If you do not use a clicker for training, praise the behavior followed by offering a reward.

Repeat this step a few times to allow the instruction to cement in your dog’s memory.

Move back

Now is the time to add distance. Repeat the steps mentioned before. Reward your dog for staying when seeing the hand signal. Keeping the hand signal in place, take one step back and hold the position for a few seconds. If your dog stands, come back to him and repeat the previous step. But if the pup continues to sit, reward the behavior after a few seconds. 

Add in distance and time.

Next, focus on adding more distance and time to the exercise. Ask your dog to stay, go back a little more, come back, praise the behavior and offer a treat. However, if your dog follows you, do not offer any reinforcement. Instead, start again at the previous step. Once your dog is fluent in the previous step, you can progress forward. 

Practice… practice… practice…

You cannot expect your dog to become proficient in any type of training in one day. You must practice every day and at random times of the day. This will help cement the command and turn the behavior into muscle memory. 

practice is key
practice is key

Wean off the treats

The purpose of training your dog is so that he follows the commands even if you do not have a treat in your hand. Once your dog is following the commands every time you ask him to, it is time to remove the treat from the picture. 

Start by offering the treat in one instance and not offering it the next time. At times, you can also skip a few turns before offering the treat. This will keep your dog guessing when he gets the treat for following the commands. Thus, he will stay motivated to follow your commands.

Eventually, you remove the treats entirely. By this time, your dog has got habituated to responding to the commands. The practice must continue even after you have removed the treats. 

Focus on a definitive beginning and end

Your definitive starting command will be STAY. But you must follow it up with a release command so that your dog knows he is allowed to move around now. You can use any words as the release commands. The most common release commands are:

  • Okay
  • Go
  • Free
  • Release
  • Done

Teaching release

When teaching release, give your dog the STAY command and follow it immediately with RELEASE. If your dog does not move immediately, do not worry. Take a few steps back and clap your hands or wave his favorite dog toy in the air. You can use anything that will engage your dog to teach him the release command. 

Tips to teach a dog to stay 

When you are teaching your dog to stay, there are certain factors you must bear in mind. Here are some things that you must avoid when you teach a puppy to stay:

Practice a lot of patience when training 

Training is not an easy task. You must exercise a ton of patience when training your pup. Every pup has a different learning style. One pup may pick up on your cues faster than the other. This does not mean that your other puppy is dumb. It just means that the other pup needs a bit more time to grasp the cues. Be patient and keep training. 

Train for shorter periods

Do not let the training duration go on for 30 minutes. Keep the training duration around 15 minutes. When practicing the stay commands, do not use them for longer than a few minutes initially. Asking your dog to stay for 15 minutes will be hard on the pup during the initial phases. Your dog will feel agitated and not follow. Hence keep the stay duration very short. The purpose of this command is to keep your dog safe and prevent him from getting into any situations that can hurt him. 

Tips to teach stay
Tips to teach stay

Practice everywhere

Once you have made sure that your dog is following the command even without the treat, it is time to take the training to the next level. Take the training to places where he might face distractions. Start with the other rooms of the house, then take the training to the backyard. Once your dog seems comfortable following the commands in such places, take the training to regions outside your house, like the dog park, sides of the road, etc. 

What to NOT do when you teach a dog to stay

We are only humans. We are liable to commit mistakes. However, you must not make the following mistakes when you teach a dog to stay:

  • Do not use the stay commands when you have food in your hand. Your dog will be more inclined to follow you when he notices you have a treat. 
  • Do not use recall commands instead of release. If you use recall commands, your dog will expect that you will call him to you after asking him to stay. When practicing, leave your dog for a couple of minutes and get back to him before you release him. 

Pay attention to the three D’s

When training your dog, there are three d’s that you must focus on. These three can be the difference between a successful and a failed training attempt by the dog guardian. The three Ds are:

Duration

How long are you asking your dog to follow the stay command? This point I have already discussed above. During the initial stages, focus on not having your dog stay for more than a couple of minutes. Always release him in a few minutes.

Distance

Training your dog for this part takes patience. How far you move from your dog is counted as the distance. This is the part where most dog guardians commit mistakes. They try to move away too fast, and the dog does not understand that he has to stay back. 

Once you give your dog the stay command, take one step back, lean back towards your dog, and release him. Gradually increase the distance in a step-by-step manner. First, take one step back. Then take two steps back. Then take the steps back. Keep doing this till you move so far back that your dog can’t see you in the room and yet holds the stay position. 

Distractions

You must avoid distractions at all costs, especially during the training phase. Start the training in a room which offers the least amount of distractions. As your dog gets trained, you take the training to the next level and practice in other areas that offer distractions. 

Proofing when teaching a dog to stay

Proofing is an absolutely essential part of the dog training process Dogs live in the here and now. If they get distracted, they cannot follow the commands. Thus, practicing is a non-negotiable part of the dog training process. During practice, you must focus on three types of proofing.

Duration proofing

Practice STAY with your dog when you are free. Suppose you are watching television or cooking in the kitchen. Ask your dog to STAY. Every few minutes, reward the behavior with treats. This will keep your dog motivated and allow him to stay for long periods. Do not allow your dog to get up till you give him the release command.

always proof the behavior
Always proof the behavior

Distance proofing

This point I have already discussed before. Even if your dog can’t see you, he should maintain the STAY position. To verify this, take a mirror along with you when you move out of the room. Use it to check if your dog is moving in your absence and correct the behavior. 

Distraction proofing

When your dog is following the STAY command, nothing should distract him. A rolling ball, people jumping, or running around him should not bother him. Start walking around your dog when he has learned the stay command. Your dog should not follow. Put his toys close to him, bring in other dogs, guests, etc. If your dog moves, correct the behavior. If your dog picks up or lunges towards a toy, use the command “leave it” to ask him to drop the item. This is later if the training may take a few months for your dog to master. Thus, you must be patient and allow as much time for your dog to get comfortable with the training. Do not rush the process.

Conclusion

The two important virtues of dog training are patience and consistency. Without these two attributes, training your dog or any dog is impossible. When you teach your dog to stay, start in a distraction-free environment and move into other places that offer distractions. Make sure that you are proofing the behavior as well. The STAY command can come in handy in many situations. Don’t take this training lightly.

Did you find this post insightful? Are you planning to teach a dog to stay? Do you have any special tips that you would like to share with the readers? If yes, please add your valuable suggestions and experience anecdotes in the comment section. Your suggestions can help someone else struggling with dog training. 

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Dr. Shruti

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