That’s right! Learning to stay is perhaps the hardest behaviour that any given dog can master. This command is difficult because it is made up of several phases which dogs need to grasp. However it is very useful for example when you need for your dog to wait while you unpack the grocery from the car or you open the front door but want the dog to stay in. In this article, you will learn all about the “Stay” command, as well as the best way to teach it.
Create a behaviour pattern for the “Stay” command
In order for the “Stay” command to actually work, you need to make sure your dog knows when to start ‘staying’ and when to finish. This means that you will have to pair your stay command with some sort of release word that signals the beginning and end of such behaviour. Usually, pet parents begin the command with “Stay” and finish with “OK,” “Free” and “Done”. You can choose any word, but you must use it consistently when the “stay” is finished.
In order to teach your dog to stay you need to ask him/her to sit or lay down and then reward the behaviour after increasing delays. Until your dog has mastered the task, you need to make sure there are no distractions so that it always gets it right. It is important that initially you reward your dog feeding it directly from your hand so that it does not have to move to get the treats.
Teaching the release word is a bit different. Once he is in a sit, down or stand position, and you have rewarded it a few times, say the release word right after and then throw a treat a bit far away! You can encourage it to go get the treat if it does not move immediately.
Learn about the “Three D’s” of a stay
After your dog knows the beginning and finishing words for the stay command, you can move to the next phase. This part is the most important one! Dog trainers call it the Three D’s: Duration, Distance, and Distractions. The first deals with the amount of time that your dog can stay. The second teaches that you can move away while your dog stays. The third teaches to ignore distractions while staying.
Begin with giving your stay command. When your dog is staying, then release your dog using the release word. Teach your dog to stay for longer periods by increasing the time you ask him to stay by two to three seconds intervals.
Give your dog his stay command. Step away one or two feet, then step back to your dog and release him. Increase the distance slowly by adding one step at a time. Remember, avoid having food in the hand while practising this command, otherwise your dog will tend to follow you.
Anything can be a distraction to your dog while staying. That is why it is important to train duration and distance properly before you train distractions. In fact: learning how to train your dog to stay depends entirely on how disciplined he is while staying. This, of course, involves dealing with distractions. So, once you add distractions to the routine, things can go south immediately. First, start with something easy and work your way up to more difficult distractions in various places.
Test your dog’s discipline
After you properly trained the “Three D’s”, you need to continue strengthening your dog’s resolve and discipline. That is why “proofing” is so important to this process. It shows you how well your dog is learning. Furthermore, it provides reliability under a variety of situations. That is why you should proof the “Three D’s”:
- Begin by proofing the duration. Practice this by asking your dog to stay while you are doing other things not related to him. However, remember to reward him at various intervals if he remains staying. Also, don’t let him get up until you say the release word.
- Then, proof for distance by moving away from your dog and going out of his sight. You can have some fun testing this. For example, you can move away from your dog at various angles (front, lateral, behind). Once you are out of his sight, use a mirror to check on him.
- Lastly, proof for distractions. As you may be wondering, this is one of the most difficult tasks. You can try anything you want. You name it! Use bouncing balls, jump up and down, run towards and away from your dog, cry out, etc. Nevertheless, remember, to start slowly! Your dog needs to learn!
Final pieces of advice
Learning how to teach a dog to stay is not easy but it is not impossible. In fact, you might even enjoy it! This behaviour needs time to process, but the longer your dog practices it, the better he gets at it. That is why you need to practice since puppyhood. As you may know, puppies hate being still! Yet, with short, frequent practise sessions, your pup can master this command. Then, when you are an expert, you can teach another pet parent how to teach a dog to stay!