Training Your Dog - STAY
One of the most useful commands your dog needs to know is "stay." Your dog needs to know how to stay in place when you open doors (whether to the house or car), when you groom him, when the veterinarian examines him, when he might be tempted to chase something, or when he might want to go with you but can't. You'll want to teach your dog that stay means to stay in whatever position you leave him, whether it's standing, sitting or lying down. It's usually easiest to teach the dog to stay in a sit position first. Here's how (assuming your dog already knows how to sit on command):
- Start in a quiet area without distractions and where he can't run off. Cue your dog to sit. Say “Stay” and hold your palm in a “stop” signal in front of his face. Wait for a few seconds, then reward him and say “OK!” Reward him while he is still sitting in place, not after he gets up. Otherwise he may think getting up is what he's being rewarded for.
- Repeat several times, working up gradually to a longer duration. If he gets up, simply put him gently but matter-of-factly back in position and start over, decreasing the duration you expect of him.
- If your dog is having a problem getting the concept, you can have him sit on a raised surface or behind a small barrier so it’s more difficult for him to come to you. If he's trying to take off, you can even tie him (but not on a raised surface that he could jump from and hurt himself).
- Next, work on moving to different positions around your dog, still remaining close to him. Move in front of, to either side of, and behind your dog. You may have to leave one finger on top of your dog's head at first, which helps some insecure dogs stay put at this stage.
- Next move gradually farther away from your dog.
- Once staying in a sit position is mastered, work on a stay in the down position. Do everything the same way. If he sits up, don't jerk him back down. Just say "No" and place him gently but firmly back down. If he keeps jumping up, after you place him down wait the shortest possible time before returning to him so that you are able to reward him---even if it was just for staying two seconds! Some bony or short-coated dogs object to lying down on hard or cold surfaces, so you may have better results with them, especially at first, if you have them lie on a blanket.
- Once staying in the down position is mastered, work on a stay in the stand position. If your dog is having a hard time catching on, have him step on something, like a phone book, with his front feet. This way it's easier for him to understand you are asking for a specific behavior from him. If he moves, place his feet back on the book. Then gradually make the book thinner and thinner, until it's a single sheet, then nothing. By that time he should understand the concept of leaving his front feet where you place them.
- Whether teaching the stay in the sit, down, or stand position, when he seems to have the hang of it in quiet locations, introduce mild distractions, gradually working to greater ones. Remember, you want your dog to succeed! Always be sure to reward him before you give him the “OK” signal.
- Now you are ready to work on the stay in other locations. Be sure to keep him on lead for his safety when practicing in public areas. Eventually your dog should be steady just about anywhere.
Some people use a separate command, "Wait," that tells the dog to stay where he is for now, but that they will be calling the dog to them in the near future. This command is popular among obedience competitors, but is not really necessary for everyday use.
A dog that can stay is a pleasure to have as a guest in a friend's home, a patient in the veterinary clinic, and a companion on a walk about town or a hike in the woods. He's also a dog who is less likely to run out of a door or in front of a car.