Basic Training: How To Teach Your Dog To Stay Step By Step

Sit.” “Fetch.” “Down.” These are just some of the commands your dog can learn during basic training.

Training your dog is important. Not only do you establish yourself as an alpha of your dog’s pack, but you also teach your furry pal discipline. Moreover, as a pet owner, it is your duty and responsibility to train your dog to be obedient and behave appropriately in any situation.

Of all the commands that make up a dog’s basic training, the most important is “Stay”, since it has implications on discipline and safety. This is simultaneously the most difficult command to teach.

Your dog can sit for a second. They probably love to fetch things and most of the time they will play with the stick or ball rather than give it back. They are willing to go down on their belly only if they can jump back up right away. But no dog likes to stay still.

Your dog would rather zoom around than sit still for a few minutes. This tendency to move around fast is one of the reasons why “Stay” is an essential command your dog should learn.

With patience and a bit of bribery and creativity, you can teach your dog to stay still with just one command.

Importance of Training Your Dog to Stay

When you say “Stay,” your dog should not move until you say the release word. This command can be used with “Down” or “Sit” in different situations. The reason why it is hard for dogs to learn this command is that it does not teach an action, but rather a lack of action. You are teaching your dog not to do anything until they are released from the “Stay” command.

As stated above, “Stay” is important not just for discipline, but for safety reasons as well.

Inside your home, the command will allow you to do activities like eat or clean the house without having your dog constantly begging for scraps or playing with the cleaning tools. It will stop your dog from dashing out the door every time you open it.

Outside your home, just imagine: you are out on a walk when your dog suddenly sees a squirrel. With a wriggle and a big burst of energy, your dog decides to chase after the little creature. You try to hold on to their leash, but they are too strong and too fast for you. Soon they are out of your sight.

Imagine again, you are in your yard and your dog if off the leash exploring the fenced-off garden when they suddenly see a stranger. They decide to jump over the fence and chase the stranger out on the streets full of speeding cars.

In both instances, “Stay” could be a very useful command. The command will train your dog to stop doing anything for however long you want them to stay still. It will be more effective than “Sit”, because once your dog is distracted, there is no making them sit for a long time unless the command is coupled with “Stay.”

So, ready to teach your dog to “Stay?” Let’s prepare what you need for successful training.

Tools You Will Need

Before doing any major activity with your dog, preparation is essential.

  • The most important thing to prepare is the treats. Try not to make the treats too obvious or your dog might get distracted too easily, especially when you are just starting the training. You can keep these in a pouch clipped to your belt or fanny pack.

    If you can, buy different treats. You can categorize these into rewards for easy, medium, and hard tasks. This way, the impact of the rewards will vary.
  • Prepare an initial space where you and your dog will not be disturbed or distracted during your training time.
  • Prepare a clicker if you want to train your dog with the other commands.
  • For the final phase, prepare things that will distract your dog, like their favorite toys.

Begin Teaching Your Dog to Stay

The training can be done in four phases.

1st phase

This initial phase can be divided into two parts. For the first part, you can do the following:

  • 1. Put on your dog’s collar and leash. Go to your training area.
  • 3. Walk a step away.
  • 4. Put a hand out with the palm facing forward and say “Stay”.
  • 5. Wait a moment or mentally count to three. If your dog fidgets or moves toward you, reset by moving them back to the original position and repeating the “Sit-Stay” command. Keep your voice firm but kind.
  • 6. When they stay still for a count of three, say “OK” or “Release” and “Come.” This is also the time to use the clicker if you have one at hand.

    You must establish the release word before allowing your dog to walk toward you. The release word will be the clue that the “Stay” command is over. It is just as important as the “Stay” command Itself, so it should be a unique complement.

    “Come” should never be the release word, because it can be used for other commands as well, which might confuse your dog.
  • 7. Praise your dog and give them a treat.
  • 8. Repeat the process several times.

For the second part of the phase, do the following:

  • 1. Put on your dog’s collar and leash.
  • 3. Walk a step away.
  • 4. Put a hand out with the palm facing forward and say “Stay”.
  • 5. Wait a moment or mentally count to three. If your dog fidgets or moves toward you, reset and repeat the “Down-Stay” command. Keep your voice firm but kind.
  • 6. When they stay still for a count of three, say “Up” but don’t add the release word yet.
  • 7. Say “Stay” and count to three before saying “OK” or “Release” and “Come.”
  • 8. Praise your dog and give them a treat.
  • 9. Repeat the process several times.

2nd phase

Now that your dog recognizes the word “Stay,” move on to the next phase, in which you need to determine the duration of the command.

  • 1. Start with the basic routine.
  • 2. Once you have said the command, count to five before saying the release word.
  • 3. Give your dog a treat.
  • 4. When you repeat the routine, count to ten before saying the release word.
  • 5. Keep repeating the routine while making your dog wait longer and longer every time.
  • 6. If your dog breaks away from the command, reset. Talk to them, make them feel comfortable, play with them, but don’t give them treats. Then redo the routine from the beginning.
  • 7. Keep doing this until your dog can stay in one position for a long time.

3rd phase

When you have completed the second phase successfully, move on to the third phase, which involves distance. This phase will teach your dog that the command should be followed even if they are far away from you.

  • 1. Start the routine by making your dog keep still for about a minute.
  • 2. As your dog waits, take a few steps away from them. If they stand up and follow you, reset and redo the routine from the start.
  • 3. Release your dog and give them a treat.
  • 4. Repeat the new routine, but increase the distance between you and your dog step by step. A milestone is when you are no longer holding their leash and they still maintain their position.
  • 5. The final task will be to step out of your dog’s eyesight without saying the release word. You can hide around a corner and monitor them with a piece of mirror to see if they are be successful or if you need to reset.
  • 6. Give your dog a big reward if they can stay alone for a few minutes.

4th phase

The last phase involves distraction. In this phase, you will train your dog to keep still even when they are distracted by something or someone. This phase is crucial especially if your dog usually gets involved in activities that may not be safe.

  • 1. Start the routine from the basic position.
  • 2. When you are sure your dog will not move, show them a toy they do not play with often and throw it a few steps away. If they run to the toy, reset from the beginning. Do not give them a treat.
  • 3. Keep repeating the new routine until they can keep still without getting distracted by their toy.
  • 4. Next, combine all the phases. Give the “Stay” command, hold out a toy, and walk a few steps away. Wriggle the toy enticingly. If your dog moves, reset calmly. If they do not move for a couple of minutes, reward them.
  • 5. Make the new routine more difficult by giving them toys they like to play with. You can even use treats as distractions. Throw the treat a few steps away to tempt your dog to move.
  • 6. The next part of this phase is having a person or another animal try to distract your dog. You can get another pet to do this, be it your own or a friend’s. You can ask another person to try to get your dog’s attention without giving commands.
  • 7. Vary the location. Go indoors or outdoors, where different things will naturally distract your dog.

When your dog can sit or lie still despite the distance and the many distractions, then congratulations, you have trained your dog to “Stay”!

Some Dos and Don’ts

  • Set your dog up for success. Go through the phases slowly. Make sure that your dog is ready before moving on to a more difficult task. Make them feel good for accomplishing each task.
  • On the other hand, when your dog does not accomplish a task, do not shout or raise your voice at them. Keep your voice firm but kind. Keep calm and reset.
  • Set aside a regular time frame every day so that your dog understands that a specific time during the day is devoted to training.

Summary 

Remember that there are three important points when training your dog to stay: length of time (duration), distance, and distractions. When your dog learns that “Stay” can bring fun rewards, you can use the command even in a park where tiny squirrels and many strangers walk about. Your dog will just ignore them and stay by your side. Now that is a good girl or boy!

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