One of the most useful obedience commands to teach your dog is the Stay command. A Stay command can be given while the dog is sitting, laying down, or standing. Depending on your dog and the situation in which you use a Stay command, it is beneficial to teach your dog at least two different positions to remain in a Stay. Stays while your dog is sitting or laying down are the most commonly used by dog owners.
Before teaching your dog to stay, there are a few things to consider about this command. Variables such as time, distance, and distraction can effect the way your dog learns the Stay command. Building up how long your dog remains in a Stay (the time variable) is the easiest; adding distance between you and your dog is a bit harder; and having distractions around your dog is the hardest variable to overcome when teaching your dog Stay. In order to teach your dog Stay properly, start by working on building up time without any distractions and remaining close to your dog. In this instance, distractions and distance are kept to a minimum.
To begin teaching your dog Stay, go to an area with minimal distractions and have treats ready. Tell your dog to Sit, hold up a hand to signal the Stay command, and say "Stay." Do not leave your hand out in front of you; your dog may become dependent on your constant hand signal for this command, so if your dog is use to your hand staying out in front of you, you will have to keep it there. Silently count to five seconds, and if your dog remains in the Stay without getting up, say "Yes" and reward your dog with a treat and praise. Continue practicing until your dog is comfortable with this command. As your dog gets better, slowly add more time, making your dog remain in a Stay longer.
To add the other variables of distance and distraction, focus on one variable at a time. For example, if your dog can Stay for 30 seconds but you are ready to add distance, start by taking one step backwards and counting to five seconds. Adding distance to a longer period of time would be harder for your dog, so set him/her up to succeed by making the command easier and focusing on one variable at a time (time and distractions are at a minimum here). To do the same for adding distractions, keep the time short and do not move away from your dog. In this case, time and distance are kept at a minimum. Here are the three options for adding all the variables to a Stay command one at a time:
- Work on adding time, with no distractions and no distance
- Work on adding distance, with short time and no distractions
- Work on adding distractions, with short time and no distance
Set goals for your dog and when your dog reaches those goals, you can then consider working on two variables at a time: time and distance; time and distractions; distance and distractions. But always remember to go at your dog's pace and keep the training fun and positive. After your dog has met the goals you have set for him/her, use the Stay command in different aspects of your day. Have your dog sit and stay before putting his/her food bowl down. Or have your dog sit and stay before putting his/her leash on and going for a walk. Or have your dog sit and stay while you brush him/her. The options are endless!