The 6 Reasons You Are Ruining Your Dog’s “Stay” Command

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dog training, puppy training, dog's stay command

The “Stay” command is often the “bane” of dog owners’ obedience training.

And, even those who get a decent “stay,” often end up losing it completely.

It is pretty easy to understand if you read these points…

The 6 Reasons You Are Ruining Your Dog’s “Stay” Command

#1: You Never Taught Him Patience

The “stay” command is probably the least rewarding or positive command you can teach your dog.

Simply put, for your dog to learn the command, he has to make the mistake of getting up.

I much prefer to reward good behavior rather than waiting for incorrect or bad behavior, and then correcting it.

So, even though I know that the dog in this instance has to make a mistake (or a few) to learn this particular command, I still want to set him up for success.

When I am getting ready to teach “stay,” I like to reward my dog for being patient.

If he can stay in his sit or his down, I will click and reward.

If he gets up, no big deal, but he won’t be rewarded.

I want him to understand that the act of “staying” and being patient will bring hefty rewards.

Once my dog has learned this phenomenon, and I can work the duration of time up to a minute or more, I feel like I can finally teach him patience.

I want to give him the skills to be able to accomplish this command before I add the command and the correction.

I don’t think anything else is fair.

I also see owners and dogs who get extremely frustrated with the old school way of “Give the command, correct the dog, take the dog back,” and this continues until one of the parties just gives up.

This is a lot kinder, and you will be more successful if you give your dog some understanding before the correction has to enter the equation.

#2: You Keep Getting Your Dog Up

This, ironically, goes right along with the previous example.

As humans, we are such an impatient species.

We want to gedog training, puppy training, dog's stay commandt everything done as fast as possible so we can move on to the next thing.

Impatience is not conducive to dog training.

When you are impatient, you will have an impatient dog.

You don’t know how many times I see owners command a dog into a behavior (“sit” or “down”), and then almost immediately ask for another behavior.

I understand that for the dog to learn, he has to accomplish the behavior multiple times with some regularity.

However, if you are constantly getting the dog to move to be rewarded, the dog will have a tough time with learning to “stay.”

You have been conditioning him to move from one behavior to another behavior without any exercise or pause in between.

I like a patient dog and a calm dog.

Whereas I love getting my dogs to do pushups, and other fun behaviors, I want my dogs to understand that patience or staying until I ask for another behavior is at least equally, or, better yet, more rewarding.

YOU need to learn to be calm and patient when you train!!!

Give him the opportunity to think and make choices.

Give him the opportunity to make mistakes.

Mistakes are crucial to learning but remain consistent and patient, and he will follow your cue.

#3: You Call Your Dog Out of a Stay

This is a HUGE problem!!!!!

So many owners get a half-hearted “stay” and then call the dog to come.

My other favorite is the owner who sees his dog is about to get up anyway, so he quickly calls him to come like I won’t notice, ha ha!

First of all, it isn’t about me.

You are rewarding the dog for making a mistake.

Even if the dog is not fully up or hasn’t blown his “stay” yet, his mind has already made the decision.

You can correct at this stage, or you can reward.

If I see my dog flinch like he is going to get up, I can correct and say “Ahhh” or “Nope” letting him know I see that he is about to move.

But if you call him, you reward him for making an incorrect choice.

Now, on to the second reason this is a problem…

Dogs are great at anticipating what they think we want!

This can work to your advantage for some training, but it is going to ruin your “stay.”

If you consistently call your dog out of the “stay,” he is just going to assume you will call him anyway and he is going to come to you.

Now, here is the tough thing, you have to correct him for COMING TO YOU.

You never want to correct your dog for coming to you! And, if you do it should be RARE.

Essentially you are setting your dog up for failure.

By constantly calling him, you ruin your stay.

To have a GREAT “stay,” you must return to the dog 95% of the time and release him from there.

To work on “come,” you don’t have to have a “stay” and, as I explained, I certainly wouldn’t use it this way often!

#4: You Think You Have to Beg Him the Whole Time

This is an interesting phenomenon, but one I encounter A LOT in class.

People think they have to talk to the dog the whole time the dog “stays.”

Nothing is further from the truth!

In fact, you shouldn’t talk to him!

dog training, puppy training, dog's stay commandThe dog should learn to accomplish this command without needing you as a crutch.

At some point, you will want to leave your dog in a “stay” and leave the room or do something else, and you don’t want to have to tell him “good dog” or “staaaaaaaay” every 5 seconds.

If he breaks, put him back, but you don’t need to talk to him all the time.

Even the dog must think the owner is crazy when they are constantly giving the command or issuing praise, because their regular life is nothing like that!

It probably freaks him out a little bit.

Remember, just like any other command, give him the cue and then enforce it if you have to; don’t make a big deal about it.

Yes, occasionally I will quietly praise the dog, but it isn’t often.

I only use it if I think he needs a bit of reassurance, but I don’t want him to need to rely on it.

I want him to have an excellent and independent “stay.”

When we trained Service Dogs, we would sometimes have them do down stays for hours at a time, getting them ready for life with their new partner. I can’t imagine having to talk to them every 3 seconds for 3 hours!

#5: You Are Not Confident in this Command

This is the one command everyone knows their dog is going to blow.

YES! HE IS!

Let him make a mistake so he can learn!

As we discussed earlier, this command has to be broken for a dog to learn.

Don’t spend so much time worried about his failure.

Teach him patience, and then it will be fairer.

Then, tell him “STAY,” don’t ask.

It is funny how so many people turn this command into a question.

“Staaaaaaaaaay?”  “Staaaaaaay?”

You don’t give any other command that way… how do you expect your dog to understand if you always give this command in such a wishy-washy way?

Be confident and kindly deal with any mistakes your dog makes.

#6: You Never Work it Long Enough

I find with both my in-home training and classes, that the average person never works this behavior long.

It is as if the foundation gets started with the dog in a sit, on a leash, and the person eventually works to the end of the leash, but beyond that, people don’t see this as a crucial command.

I think the opposite.

I want my dog to be able to do long down stays, and out of sight down stays, and stays on their bed.

Down stays and “stays” in general are great behaviors to help dogs calm down and focus their energy.

This is a behavior that has to be built on and intermittently rewarded.

Meaning, it is no fun to make the dog just do longer and longer down stays.

Although that will work, it is more fun if this is a game and the dog never knows whether it will be a 2 minute down stay, or a 10 minute down stay, or longer.

I like my dog training to be fun!

I want my dog to want to train!

I also like a well-trained dog, and that takes time and effort!

You will get out of it, what you put into it!!

There are 35 Comments

  1. Libba Hartog says:

    This was VERY helpful! Thanjs!

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  2. Rei says:

    I liked your explanations. I can see now how that happens with the Jack Russell’s that I am around.

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  3. Jenny says:

    Hi, I am finding your articles very interesting. I have been helping out a dog classes for years but still find you never know enough! I am on my 7th german shepherd now and after having four rescues and two pups I’m finding my present one the most difficult. He seems very anxious when taken out of his home environment and has pulled on the lead like a steam train since very young. He is now 9months old and I know this is a difficult age. He is very attentive and extremely clever?

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  4. Corinne says:

    Thank you! My bullypit is very excitable and stay is a command we struggle with. He loves everyone and wants to say hello. We have worked towards him staying at the top of the stair while people come in so they are not bombarded by 90lbs of love. Lol He works hard at staying! However, after reading this, I can see how I have confused him. Much appreciated advice!

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  5. Dorothy says:

    I have a 10 month old GSD, loves being outside, hates coming in. What is the best way to get her to listen to the come command without tricking her to come in?

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  6. Patti Jo Donzelli says:

    Very helpful suggestions!

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  7. Very good advice that demonstrates
    what you are doing wrong. Expect him to stay & when he first doesn’t lead him down without talking, say the command firmly and walk away. He will understand you mean it.

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  8. Yolanda says:

    Thank you for helping me understand why I cannot get my dogs to stay more than a minute or two.

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  9. Dave Pitkin says:

    I read all your tips with interest. thanks

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  10. Linda says:

    Your stay is very helpful but now as soon as he see my hand in a stay position he snaps at my hand before I even get the word out. Should I just not use the stay hand movemeant and just stay with the word

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  11. Koustav Majumdar says:

    Small yet very important points👍🏻👍🏻👌.

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  12. karen warwick says:

    Thank you. This was instructive. I have my 7 month old lab doing pretty well on stay but I can see where I need to improve. With me being calm,rather than angry, and the CALMZZ product, I think we are over coming his worst problem of biting and I mean biting!! . Karen

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  13. Maggie and course for quite a while now and since she is just a year old, we have been making slow but steady progress. We’ve decided to let some of the more advance off leash stuff wait a bit. She is actually providing me with the service dog skills I need and is a good citizen.

    Somehow, my experience with the course has taugh ME patience (unheard of) and taught her to stay using this method before I read this method.

    Thanks for teaching me to think like a dog😎

    [Reply]

  14. Donna says:

    Does your DVD cover ways to stop your dog from eating sticks and grass? My lab is obsessed with eating both!
    Thanks

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  15. HJP says:

    Thanks this is great advice think my dog and I need to work on this some!

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  16. Judy B says:

    Very helpful. Thanks.

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  17. Judy says:

    Sounds good, but how does the dog distinguIsh between sit and stay?

    [Reply]

  18. Karen Garofalo says:

    Wowee. I get it now! Thank you for providing a thoughtful approach into a dog’s brain and how to keep them sane during training…We have to be sane, patient, and enduring during thei time of focus training.

    [Reply]

  19. annette says:

    This makes such sense. I now see tjat it is I who need patience more than my dog

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  20. Elizabeth says:

    Thank u much. Very helpful

    [Reply]

  21. Charles says:

    Very good instructions. Dogs know when you mean what you say.

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  22. Jean says:

    Super helpful. I’m guilty of talking endlessly they stays thinking I need to entertain my dog, I guess ! No that whole idea seems ridiculous as I read what you wrote; very useful!

    [Reply]

  23. Linda Munro says:

    Thank so much for that advice.
    I’m going to bear all that in mind, and “start over,” with the “Stay” training!!

    [Reply]

  24. Barb says:

    I have some things to work on, thanks for the tips.

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  25. Claire says:

    Hi Linda, your issue might be because you never taught him patience. See tip one….and go from there again.

    [Reply]

  26. HuskyOwnerInDE says:

    I have the opposite problem. My dog has figured out long ago how to be patient if he doesn’t feel like “yelling” at me, so often to get him to come, I usually have to go all the way to him to show I’m serious or why it would be worth it to come. Sometimes he knows what’s going on, like when I get out the bike it means we’re going for a ride. My most enormous problem is he won’t walk in the warm weather (he’s a wooly husky), but he’ll go on a bike ride wherein he might “do his business!” Any ideas for these “come” and walking in the heat issues? Thanks in advance!

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    Minette Reply:

    Respect his decisions in the heat, heat can kill him. Search my articles for coming when called.

    Not coming when called is not “patience” it is blatantly ignoring a command.

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  27. HuskyOwnerInDE says:

    I know heat can kill dogs. Heck, if it’s bad enough I feel so ill too and dread Summer. It would theoretically be easy -or easier- to respect his decisions on heat, but he doesn’t know what he wants to do and will demand to go right back out the second we’ve re-entered home! It’s like he has the 3-second memory of a goldfish in the Summer, so he’s begun his same behavior of last Summer only; despite it still being Spring. Last Summer he’d pause on night walks too when it was cool out, so it’s very difficult to know how to be good to him/ his needs and not be sleep-deprived if he thinks he needs a 3AM walk [Not yet anyway].

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    Minette Reply:

    exactly, exercise before it gets hot and after the sun has gone down. You can also work on swimming

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  28. HuskyOwnerInDE says:

    I hit reply in the grey box (of your reply) but I get a pop-up msg that says “From TheDogTrainingSecret.com ERROR: Can’t find the ‘CommentFormId’ Div.” Anyway, we don’t have a pool. Minette: I can’t just walk him before and after the sun’s out if he demands otherwise. He doesn’t want exercise: At those times he wants to GO! So can you help with something he can wear to encourage him to walk when it’s NOT dangerously hot out for either of us? He’s a nervous dog, so I can’t just walk him before and after the sun’s out.

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    Minette Reply:

    I would still walk him at those times and I would find an indoor dog training area you can play in or rent during the day.

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  29. Cindy says:

    I have a 12 month St. Bernard who would have no problem with the stay command. He would simply lie down and go to sleep! Haha. He is a puller on the leash, but is getting better. We have him wearing a harness that has the hook for the leash under and to the side of his head. That helps, but if he sees other people or another dog, i can’t hold him. I have a bad back, and am unable to keep him from pulling. He is absolutely single minded, especially if there are children involved. He loves people, especially children. He is a sweet dog, but at about 110 + lbs., must learn all his manners! Your tips really help me a lot. I think I will switch to the clicker training method. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You can search our articles on any subject you desire

    [Reply]

  30. Shawna says:

    This is a great read and explains exactly the confusion I’m having with the instruction from my trainer. I asked when exactly to click and reward a stay. Most things we click and treat immediately. She gets that. Now we need to teach patience and to wait for a delayed reward. Still makes sense. The trainer suggested treating upon release or a come command. It, like you point out, is rewarding her for stopping staying. For now, while it’s new, I’m going to return to her for the click and treat. As she gets better with it, how and when do I get to just release her from a sit without having to return to her? How do I transition? Any help is greatly appreciated.

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    Minette Reply:

    I also replied on FB but here, read this… I think it will help with your confusion https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/tackling-stay-command-positive-ensure-success/

    and this

    https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/?s=intermittent+reward

    and thank you for the kudos. I always hope that I am writing and getting my point across 😀

    [Reply]

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