Dog Training 101: The Stay Command

How To Teach Your Dog To “Stay”

Stay is one of the most useful commands your dog can learn.

When teaching the ‘stay’ command, it’s important for the handler to give the dog a very clear and understandable signal.  While not necessary, it helps to begin in a sit or down position with the dog at our side.

Prepare to move away from the dog, and look to see which hand is closest to the animal’s face.  Drop the lead, and bend your arm at about 90 degrees so your palm is parallel to the ground.  It’s not imperative that you get 90 degrees straight out, I’m just trying to illustrate the motion.

Give the verbal ‘stay’ command, while swinging your arm down towards the dog’s face.  The motion is similar to you slapping a wall that’s right behind you.  Your palm should stop at the dog’s face on larger dogs.

At this point it doesn’t matter if the dog is looking at you, once you give the command it’s up to the dog to look at you to see what you expect of it.

As you give the stay command, and your hand swings down to stop in front of the dog’s nose, you should begin the motion of walking away.  As your hand reaches full extension, you should be on your first step away.  It’s important that this happen in a fluid motion.  If you give the command, swing the arm, and then pause before taking the step, the dog will see this as hesitation or uncertainty on your part.  You must make the motion in an assertive manner.

Issue the command, perform the gesture, and fluidly step away from the dog.  At this point you’re free to walk around.  At first, keep the distance short, don’t get too far from the dog.  Walk casually in a semicircle in front of the dog.  Keep half an eye on it to be sure of it’s position, and that it hasn’t moved.

If your dog moves, you need to correct it.  Get the line, and take the dog back to where he was supposed to stay.  It’s very important to take them back to the spot! Snap the line towards the ground, to put them back in the starting position.  It’s not necessary to repeat the ‘down’ or ‘sit’ command.  Put the dog into the starting position, and pause.

Pet the dog to reduce any stress, and repeat the ‘stay’ command.  Move away again and watch the dog.

Pro Tip:  Don’t stare at the dogs eyes during this session.  The ‘stay’ command is a little less concrete than other commands, and staring at him could induce stress into the situation.  Just glance at the dog to be sure he hasn’t moved.

Circle around, and get back to your starting position beside the dog.  Avoid the temptation to overly praise the dog too soon.  We strive to produce a patient dog.  After a few seconds, reach down and lightly pet and praise the dog, once he’s calm.

After this you have two choices, you can repeat the ‘stay’ command and move away again, maybe this time for a longer duration or further distance.

Or you can release the dog by stepping forward and clapping your hands.  I prefer the word “OK” as my release word.  When they come to you after praise them quite a bit more.

When teaching stays, you must start with short durations and work your way up to longer times.  I’ve had 9 month old pups that were able to hold 30 minute stays using simple, consistent training methods.

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