How to Train a Dog to Stay

Stay is not a difficult skill to teach but it does require time and patience. The key to teaching stay is timing.  It is extremely important to reward your dog while she is engaged in the correct behavior (i.e. the stay), not after you have released her.  Treating your dog after you have released her creates anticipation, which makes some dogs more likely to get up prematurely.  To teach your dog how to stay, follow the below-listed steps. 

1.  Think of a good release signal.  This is the one or two-syllable word that you will use to release your dog from her stay.  It should be the same word every single time.

2.  Grab  a small handful of high value treats.  The number of treats you pull determines the length of the round.  The first several rounds should be short!  

3.  Ask your dog to sit and stay in a firm voice.

4.  Immediately feed your dog your entire handful of treats one treat at a time.  Feed your dog as if you are a winning slot machine.  If your dog gets up, then you are not feeding her quickly enough.  

5.  Give your dog the clear release signal and encourage her to get up.

6.  Conduct a second round but make small movements while you are hand-delivering the treats.  For example, you may rock back and forth or step side-to-side.

7.  Conduct a third round but make slightly bigger movements.  If your dog gets up, then return her to the exact spot she got up from with minimal touching.  Do not treat your dog right away.  Make another few movements before treating her again.

8.  Increase the criteria again by experimenting with different actions while your dog is in a stay.  For example, try turning your back, sitting in a chair, or chatting with someone.

Remember to increase the criteria incrementally.  If your dog gets up more than one time during any given round, then you are moving too fast.  Consider conducting shorter rounds, treating your dog at a faster rate, or making smaller movements.  Good luck and happy training!