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How To Train Your Dog To Stay

black labrador retriever staying

Training your dog is a great way to bond and build trust, and teaching your dog to stay keeps him safe

When you bring a dog into your life, you also welcome a lot of responsibility, and training your dog is a big part of dog ownership. Of course, training your pup doesn’t mean you have to teach him all kinds of fancy tricks, but the basic commands are always essential for any dog to learn in order to be well-mannered and stay safe. A command that can really make a big difference in your dog’s overall behavior is “stay.”

Why Is It Important for Your Dog To Learn How To Stay?

The “stay” command comes in handy in a number of different situations and it can ultimately mean all the difference in terms of your dog’s safety. For example, when you open your front door, if your pup knows how to stay then he will resist bolting out into a busy street.  The “stay” command is also beneficial when it comes to interacting with other dogs and people. If your pooch knows how to stay, he instantly becomes a lot less intimidating to other pups, and becomes more pleasant for people to be around -- not everyone wants a dog jumping all over the place, even if he is just excited. 

 puggle staying in grass

Steps To Train Your Dog To Stay

First, make sure your dog is able to consistently perform the “sit” command before you teach him anything else. Being able to sit is the foundation for many other commands and will make it easier to teach your pup how to stay. 

Make sure to have all of your tools ready to go, like treats that you will use for rewards, and a clicker if you decide to use clicker training. Basically, no matter what command you are presenting to your pup, you are going to start by using a hand signal and eventually work in the verbal cue. The key essential factor in training your dog to stay is to gradually increase the time increments. 

Here’s a closer look at each of the steps to train your dog to stay:

Have Your Dog Sit

First, give your dog the command to sit. Again, if you have not yet taught your pup to sit, then concentrate on working with him on that command before moving on to any others. 

Give the Hand Signal 

Hold your hand up, palm facing toward your dog as if you’re telling him to stop. This will be the hand signal for the “stay” command. Visual signals are important tools for dog training because they have been shown to be more exciting for a dog, therefore capturing his attention more easily. Plus, it is always a good idea to have both a verbal and a non-verbal cue for your pup, since you never know what type of situation you will be in when you have to give your dog a command.

Reward and Praise

Once your dog remains in a seated position for even just one second, immediately reward him and praise him, and give him a treat. The idea is to catch the desired behavior as soon as it happens so your dog starts to associate the right behavior with the command. Ensure that your voice maintains a positive tone and keep your energy level upbeat but calm. Remember, your dog can sense your emotions and feelings, so don’t get stressed out or frustrated if your pup isn’t getting it at first. If your dog starts to stand before you can reward him, then reset and try again. Avoid harsh words or punishing your dog; stick with positive reinforcement. Eventually, when it comes time to reward your dog, shift to only using verbal praise and friendly pats.

Increase the Time Your Pup Stays

Once your pup can stay for one second, increase the amount of time to five seconds. After your dog is successful with the new amount of time, bump it up again to 10 seconds, then 15 seconds; gradually increase the amount of time your pup can stay until you reach 30 seconds. 

Add in the Verbal Cue 

Now it’s time to link the verbal command to the action. Once your pal can stay put for 30 seconds, firmly speak your pup’s name followed by the word “stay” at the beginning of the command (when you first give the hand signal). Sometimes, you and your pup will be in a situation where he might not be within your line of sight for some reason, or you might not be able to perform the hand signal, so teaching him to respond to verbal cues is very important. Continue this process with your dog, slowly phasing out the hand signal so that your pup only responds to the verbal cue.

Increase the Distance Between You and Your Pup

Practice with your dog until he is very consistent with staying for 30 seconds and only responding to the verbal command. Then, start to increase the distance between you and your dog. For example, you might begin right in front of him at first, but then slowly step a few feet away, then a few more, until you are across the room from your pup. You can also try telling your dog to stay and then step out of the room for a few seconds and then back in; you will eventually want to add a “release” command that lets your dog know he is able to exit the stay position. 

To teach your dog to release, simply say “release” and give your pup a signal (a swift hand motion that says “come on”), and reward him as soon as he moves.

Add in Distractions

No matter what trick or command you teach your pup, it’s always important to establish a strong and consistent performance of the behavior. You need to feel confident that your pup will perform at his best in public when other things are happening around him, so build distractions into your training. The distractions should represent activities that would likely occur when you are out and about with your pup, like another person walking a dog, people jogging or riding bikes, a ball or a frisbee being tossed, or another animal nearby. This practice is known as proofing the behavior.

Once your dog is performing the “stay” command successfully despite any distractions, you can feel pretty certain that he has a very good understanding of the behavior. Keep practicing, and maintain short training sessions so your dog remains focused; about 5 to 10 minutes several times a week works best. Then, make sure to regularly practice the command to keep it fresh for your pup.

black german shepard staying

Tips for Successful Dog Training

Follow these tips to get the most out of your dog training sessions:

  • Stay positive and end each session with a win.
  • Always have treats on hand when you’re first starting to teach a behavior. Then, whenever your pup performs the desired action, even if it was not intentional, immediately give the command and reward him so he can start associating the behavior with the command.
  • Begin training your dog as soon as he joins your family and set clear boundaries and expectations from the start. 
  • Stay consistent!
  • Stick to a schedule for eating, training, play, and sleep, and make sure potty training is solid.
  • Always be prepared before you begin and have the necessary tools such as treats, leash and collar, a clicker if you want to use one, and any other necessary items. 
  • Ensure your pup has ample opportunities to play and exercise and that he gets enough stimulation from things like his toys and other activities so that he is focused during training sessions. You can get him a toy like the Rolly Cannoli to keep him engaged and entertained when you are not at home.

Training is a critical component of raising a happy and healthy dog, especially when it comes to safety. If you find that you need a little extra help, talk with your vet about some different training methods or ask for trainer recommendations. You can also take a peek at the Association of Professional Dog Trainers website if you want to go the route of working with a professional, or check out a dog app like Puppr for some helpful training tips. To learn more about training your dog and to find other helpful resources, check out the rest of our blog!

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