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Stay means, "Make yourself comfortable; I will come back to release you."

Training your dog to stay is as simple as extending his skills in Sit, Down, and Stand. By teaching him to hold each of these positions until he hears the Release word, you have been training your dog to stay. Adding the cue, "Stay" confirms for your dog that he is expected to hold his position until the release cue, and lets him know that he is free to relax in his position until then.

Training Your Dog to Stay

  • Ask your dog to sit or down-choosing the position he is most comfortable in will help him succeed.

  • Take a small step backward. Before your dog breaks position, click and immediately walk back to reward him. Release him and tell him he is wonderful, but do not give him another treat.

  • Gradually increase the distance you walk backward before clicking and returning to your dog to reward. Vary the angle at which you move away from your dog, your speed, whether you are facing him and how long you pause before going back to reward him.

  • Be sure to use your Release Word when you are done, and remember that all the rewards come while he is still in position-the release is its own reinforcement for most dogs.

  • If your dog breaks position, go back and reposition him. Be sure not to reward him for breaking by giving him a treat after he has been repositioned, otherwise, your dog is training you! Walk back to where he broke the last time, click and then go back to deliver his reward.

  • Follow the Two Failure Rule: If you try the same thing twice and do not get the desired result, back up to an easier intermediate step before attempting the exercise again. For example, if your dog breaks his stay when you walk 10 feet from him twice in a row, try walking 8 feet away.

  • Add your cue after he understands the behavior (you would bet $20 that he will perform the behavior in that situation), and say it only once.

Increasing the Difficulty: Duration, Distance, and Distraction

As your dog's training progresses, he will be able to stay for longer (duration), while you walk farther away (distance), and in the presence of distractions. Increase the difficulty in only one aspect during each training exercise. For example, imagine your dog can stay for a maximum duration of 15 seconds, a maximum distance of 10 feet, and with maximum distractions of other calm people and dogs. If you would like to work on increasing the distance, work in a quiet place (lower distraction) and walk briskly out to your new distance, click and walk briskly back to reward and release your dog (low duration). Likewise, if your dog has trouble staying when another dog walks by (high distraction), keep your distance from him very small, and keep the duration of the stay very short.