How To Teach a Dog To Stay

How to teach a dog to stay
Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev from Pexels

Teaching your dog how to “stay” will help you keep your dog out of the way while you do other activities, like gardening, cleaning the car, or cooking a meal. It’s an essential training exercise that all dogs need to go through, as occasionally, you will need to ask your dog to stay where they are.

Once you’ve mastered other training techniques like teaching your dog its name and teaching your dog to sit, you can then move on to teaching your dog how to “stay”. It’s a tricky one for your dog to understand but with some patience and consistency, they’ll master it in no time.

Why is it important to teach your dog to stay?

Dog’s love to follow us, humans, everywhere and be part of everything we do, however, there will be times when we need our dogs to stay and not follow us, and this can be a challenging time for our dogs as they won’t understand why they can’t come with us or need to remain a certain distance away. They just want to be with us all the time, but this isn’t realistic.

Every owner should take the time to teach their dog to stay and if they make the training process fun and rewarding, it’s not an impossible task and they should pick it up quite quickly!

You’ll need your dog to stay when you are cleaning your home, cleaning your car, doing housework, painting, and other activities that make it difficult with a dog around.

How to teach your dog “stay”

Everything you need to know to get started training your dog to stay.

1) Make sure your dog is calm

Training can take time and your dog may become impatient, so you need to make sure your dog is calm. If they are very energetic at the time, it may be worth taking them for a walk before their training, so they are a little knackered and less energetic!

2) Find a quiet spot to train your dog

This should be a quiet spot without any distractions nearby, so your dog can remain focused throughout the training process. Dogs have short attention spans, so even the slightest distraction like a toy, car going by, doorbell ringing or people around will have them distracted, so make sure it’s somewhere quiet otherwise this will interrupt the training.

3) Pick a command word that you stick with everytime

This could be something like “Stay!” or “Wait!” – something relatively straightforward and you can say it very clearly. You will need to be consistent with this word throughout their training.

4) Pick a starting position

This is the position the dog will start from before you ask them to stay, they may prefer to stand, sit, or lay down, it depends on their preference and what they are most comfortable with.

5) Ask your dog to get into their starting position

If the dog is trained to get into their position, then ask them to do so and if they do it, reward them with a tasty treat and praise them lots. This could mean telling them to “Sit!”.

6) Tell them your “Stay!” command followed by a clear hand signal

Gently hold the palm side of your hand up to their nose and slowly move away from your dog. Before you can give them a chance to move towards you, reward them with a treat for waiting. You’ll need to be super, super quick with this movement and you will need to reward your dog before they move. If you’re struggling, you may need to practice without the dog there first. Practice this multiple times with your dog.

7) Next, break eye contact with your dog and repeat the process

This is where it starts to get tricky, as making eye contact with your dog is a big signal that you’d like their attention, without it, they may get distracted, but it’s a good test to see how committed they are to their owners “Stay!” command. Repeat the previous step, however, as you move your hand away from their nose, you should break eye contact with them, then reward them with a treat.

8) Increase the time between the “Stay! command and the reward

This part is also tricky and you will need to increase the time between your “Stay! command and the tasty treat. Every dog is different and some dogs may quickly progress, however, it’s not unusual for most dogs to struggle. If your dog does struggle, increase the time by a second every go, but if your dog is quickly progressing, you could try and increase by as much as 30 seconds per go. If your dog moves too soon, reduce the time.

9) Put some distance between you and your dog

The next step is to repeat the process but create some distance between you and your dog after you say your command word. Each time you say your command word, take a step back slowly and if they stay, reward them with a tasty treat. Each time you do this, increase the distance between you and your dog.

10) Move out of sight of your dog

Once you have increased the distance between you and your dog and rewarded them with lots of treats, the next step is to move out of sight once you’ve asked them to stay. If they stay put after you’ve moved to another room, then they have mastered the command! If they seem very comfortable, you could even try and add distractions to the mix, by adding toys, music, other people walking in the room, etc. 

11) Keep it consistent and mix up the treats

Lastly, keep training your dog every so often even after they’ve mastered the command. You could try training them in another room or environment and add distractions. Also, don’t forget to mix up the treats to keep them excited, they deserve it after all!

And that’s it, that’s how you can teach your dog how to stay. You could even add a command to the mix that allows them to break free from the stay, such as “OK” or “come boy!”, this way they know they can break away from the command if you aren’t right next to them. Best of luck!

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