Teaching a Puppy to Stay

Golden Retriever Puppy Sit and Stay
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In order to teach your puppy to respond to a “Stay” command, he first needs to have mastery of the “Come” command. You cannot expect your puppy to stay forever – he will be eager to come to you when you call, and that is the main factor at play in teaching the “stay” command.

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Step-by-Step Process

In order for this training sequence to work, your dog needs to have mastery of the “Sit” and “Down” commands. Why? Because you will first be giving your dog one of these commands and he will be expected to stay in that position until you release him. Some dog owners choose to teach their dogs to stay be delaying a “Come” command while others choose to teach a release cue. If you teach your dog a release cue you will be able to use it in other training sequences such as teaching your dog to leave something alone until you tell him otherwise. Below you will find the training sequence for teaching your dog to stay with a release cue:

  1. Keep a few treats in your hand and stand in front of your dog.
  2. Give your dog the “Sit” or “Down” command, whichever you think will be more comfortable for the dog.
  3. Once your dog responds to the command, wait a second before saying “Yes” and giving your dog the treat.
  4. Repeat this a few times then start to increase the length of time between when you give the “Stay” command and when you release your dog.
  5. After your dog responds consistently to the “Stay” command followed by a pause, you can start to introduce challenges.
  6. Give your dog the “Stay” command then take a step backward away from him and pause for a second before returning to your dog to praise and reward him.
  7. After a few repetitions of taking one step away from your dog, take a few steps and wait a few seconds before giving the release cue, “Okay”.
  8. Upon giving the release cue, your dog is allowed to move so you should encourage him to do so by clapping your hands or moving toward him.
  9. After a few seconds of praise and play, repeat the training sequence until your dog gets the hang of the release cue and learns that it is his signal that he is free to move.
  10. Repeat this training sequence in 10 to 15-minute sessions several times throughout the day, gradually increasing the distance you move from your dog and the amount of time you make him stay before giving the release command.

Incorporating Distance and Distractions

Once your dog has mastered the “Stay” command and can hold it for a minute or two you can begin to reinforce his training by incorporating distance and distractions. Being able to issue a command at a distance can be very helpful in dangerous situations. Say, for example, that your dog is playing in the dog park and someone opens the gate – your dog’s instinct may be to run through the open gate but if you have taught him to respond to a “Stay” command even when you are not right beside him you will be able to keep him from running through the gate. Incorporating distractions into your training is also very useful because it will ensure that your dog responds to your commands no matter what else might be going on around him.

  1. Stand in front of your dog and give him the “Stay” command then wait a few seconds.
  2. Start walking in a circle around your dog or do a little dance in front of him as a distraction.
  3. If your dog holds his stay until you give the release cue, praise him and offer him a food reward.
  4. If he moves too early, say “No” in a firm tone and return to the beginning – give him the “Sit” or “Down” command followed by “Stay” and repeat the sequence.
  5. Incorporate other distractions by tossing a toy toward your pet – repeat the “Stay” command as you toss the toy and again after a few seconds.
  6. You can also test your dog by saying other words instead of the release cue – reward your dog if he waits for the cue but, if he moves too soon, return to the beginning of the sequence.
  7. Once your dog can hold a stay despite distractions you can move on to adding distance to your command.
  8. Give your dog the “Sit” or “Down” command followed by “Stay” then walk a few feet away.
  9. Repeat the “Stay” command and walk another few feet away.
  10. Give your dog the release cue or call him to come then praise and reward him.
  11. Repeat this sequence, moving a little further away each time until your dog responds consistently.
  12. After a few days of this sequence, try giving your dog a “Stay” command from a distance while he is wandering around the yard.
  13. You can also utilize this sequence using the “Sit” or “Down” command followed by “Stay”.

With time and consistency you can train your puppy to do just about anything. As long as you praise and reward your puppy for performing the desired behavior, he will be eager to repeat that behavior in the future. Your puppy naturally desires to please you and playing on that natural desire is the key to success in any type of dog training.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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