- Choose a quiet area and work on duration stays.
- Another day, choose a quiet area and work on distance stays.
- Another day, choose a quiet area and work on duration and distance, making both easier than on occasions where you only worked on one or the other.
- Choose a slightly busier location and work on duration stays….and so on.
Whenever you practice in a new place, adjust the distance or duration of the stay until your dog is successful despite the new place being interesting. Novelty wreaks havoc on canine concentration, so be prepared to compensate.
How to Practice:
- Stand in front of your dog. Tell your dog, “Stay” in a cheerful tone of voice, pause for a second, and then give the stay hand signal: Hand out in front of you, palm facing dog. Step back with both feet. Immediately return to your original position. Praise, treat, and release. Repeat several times.
- Add a bit of duration. Tell your dog to stay, pause for a second, give the stay hand signal, and take a small step back with both feet. Pause here for one second (one-one-thousand) before you return to your original position. Praise and treat. Repeat several times.
- Slowly increase the number of seconds you wait before you return to your original position. Remember to praise and treat each successful try.
- When you can stand 2 feet away for 5 seconds without your dog getting up, switch to working on distance (if you are in a place where it is safe to let go of the leash—or work with your dog on a 20-foot leash.) Tell your dog to stay, pause for a second, give the stay hand signal, and take a couple of steps back, immediately returning to your original position. Praise, treat, and release. Repeat several times.
- Slowly increase the number of steps you take back, each time stepping right back in front of the dog. Remember to praise, treat, and release every time. Work up to a distance of 5 feet.
- Move your practice sessions to a new area with a bit more activity. Each time you change location, go back to the basics, asking only for one-second stays or one foot of distance. Slowly build up to more distance/duration.
- If at any point during the above exercises you encounter a distraction, such as a dog or person walking by, a loud noise, or scurrying critters, praise and treat immediately before your dog breaks her stay. The idea is to reward her before she has a chance to make a mistake.
When you make one thing harder, always make something else easier. For example, if you add duration to your distance stays, make the distance shorter than before you added the duration.
In quiet or familiar locations, try putting your dog into a “Stay,” then walk away and return several times before releasing. Reward your dog each time you return to her and only say “break” at the end. If your dog starts to get up before you say “break,” say “ah-ah” and praise her for continuing to stay.
If your dog starts to gets up on her own, tell her, “Ah-ah.” If that makes her hold her stay, praise her. Wait a couple of seconds, then reward and release. If she gets up, tell her, “Too bad.” Ask for an easier stay and reward her for that. Then, work your way back up.
If your dog is making more than the occasional mistake, you are going too fast. Go back to something easier and work your way up from there. Remember, the secret to teaching stay is to start easy and go slowly. End on a positive note. Keep your training sessions short and fun!
Need help? Call our free pet behavior help line at (503) 416-2983.