When practicing “stay,” remember to start in a quiet place with few distractions so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. To train a successful stay, remember to build it one step at a time: first duration, then distance, and finally distraction. Once your dog is good at all three, you can put them together.

The Distance Exercise

  1. 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. Praise your dog, give him a treat, and then say, “Break.” Repeat this process a couple of times to get your dog into the game.
  2. Tell your dog to stay, pause for a second, give the stay hand signal, and take one small step back with one foot. Immediately, bring your foot back to its original position. Praise, treat, and release. Repeat several times.
  3. Tell your dog to stay, pause for a second, give the stay hand signal, and step back with both feet. Immediately return to your original position. Praise, treat, and release. Repeat several times. Note that we don’t ask the dog to hold her position for any duration of time. This exercise is for learning distance, and we start at kindergarten level to make it easy and fun for your dog.
  4. Slowly increase the number of steps you take back, each time stepping right back in front of your dog. Remember to praise and treat each time you return to your original position.
  5. Eventually, you will be able to back up to a considerable distance. When you can walk out 10 or 15 feet and walk right back without your dog getting up, it is time to work on the third component of stay—distraction.

Tip! Vary your distance from the dog: At times go out 10 feet, at other times 3 feet.

If your dog is doing well, you can walk away and return to you dog several times before releasing him, just be sure to praise and treat each time you come back. This is how you combine distance and duration.

Troubleshooting:

If your dog gets up before you release him, say, “Too bad” in the same tone of voice you would say “Bummer” and try again. If your dog breaks the stay when you move your feet, begin by only moving a shoulder.

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.