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5 Steps to Training Your Dog to Stay

It’s not in your dog’s nature to be stationary. It’s also not in their nature to leave your side. The stay command goes against everything taught by a dog’s natural instinct. Teaching this new form of behavioral control is difficult and can be frustrating. However, both you and your pet will be greatly rewarded for the effort and patience. Reward your pet with high quality treats such as boiled chicken and their incentive to perform becomes obvious. Allowing you to move away from your pet for lengths of time, the stay command is not only useful for the park, but can potentially allow for games of hide and seek between you and your best friend.

1)   Choose Position

This step requires your pet to know the sit and down commands. These commands will signal the position your pet will remain in throughout the duration of the stay command. While standing in front of them, order your pet to either sit or lie down. If your pet stays in the selected position for even a second or longer, award them with adoration and something tasty. In doing so, you are promoting the desired action your pet will assume and stay in. Within the canine world, treats and praise mean that a command has ended and your pet is free of any controlled behavior. After being released and moving around freely. Give the command again, this time raising the minimum length acceptable to at least three seconds. If your pet should release herself before the signal has been offered, merely withhold the treat and begin again.

2)   Add Signals

This is where the command “stay” and its associated hand signal come into play. After practicing step one a few times, begin it again as you normally would.  Once your pet has assumed the desired position, immediately announce for them to “Stay.” Accompany the verbal command with its associated hand signal, which resembles a crosswalk policeman’s direction to stop. While holding your hand in front of you, direct your palm at your pet’s nose. If retaining this position for more than a second, your pet should be released, awarded and given some praise. This new routine should be repeated multiple times. As in step one, the amount of time between the command and signal for release should be patiently lengthened. Associating the verbal command with the behavior, this step works to build a connection in the mind of your pet between the word “stay” and the practice of staying.

3)   Build Duration

This step separates your pet’s praise and treats from the release command. Repeating steps one and two, command your pet into the desired position and to stay. Without the pause associated with step two, immediately say “good” and award your pet with a treat. After this initial “good” and treat routine, repeat it with your pet immediately if they continue to remain still. In a second or two, release your pet using only the verbal association, praise or otherwise. It is important that you do not give your pet any attention until they acknowledge being free of the commanded behavior. Then as in steps one and two, this routine should be repeated and the amount of time between the command and release should be slowly extended. However, within this step, that lengthening is done between the word “good” and its subsequent treat. Starting out at only a few seconds, this step allows for the duration of time to reach a potential of 25 seconds or more.

4)   Add Distance

After mastering step three, your pet has learned to stay for an extended amount of time with you standing right in front of them. The goal of this step is to allow you movement away from your pet while they safely stay in one place. As in the other steps, patience should be practiced. Running across the room after giving the command will never work on the first try. After ordering your pet into position (step one) and to stay (step two), immediately move away via a single step. Then incorporate step three into the process, saying “good” and resuming your original position to give your pet their respective treat. Your pet should be released after a moment’s pause. Taking small breaks of a few seconds, this new routine should ideally be repeated 10 times every time it’s practiced. Instead of time, in this step you are gradually increasing distance. Remember to always resume your original place next to your pet in order to buy them time with time.

5)   Distraction

Up until this step, you have been practicing with your pet in a comfortable and quiet location. The goal of step five is to allow the stay command to work in unfamiliar or possibly crowded places such as the park or other more populated areas. Start by switching up the location of training sessions within your home. Practice in different rooms or even randomly throughout the day. Dogs are easily distracted and it’s important to not expect them to immediately be still for long periods of time in a new setting. At first, you should stay close to your pet and release them sooner rather than later. After this new practice of staying in different locations has been practiced, try adding people to the routine. This helps accustom your pet to ignoring added noise and activity. Beyond this point, practice with your pet outdoors, in parks and while around other animals.

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