The 6 Reasons You Are Ruining Your 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 get 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!
The 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.
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!!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.