How to Train Your Dog To Stay
Learning how to train your dog to stay is one of the most important skills you can achieve as a dog-owner team. Not only is having this control extremely satisfying as a dog owner, but it is vital in helping keep him safe when situation arise that would otherwise be dangerous and potentially lethal. While it was okay for Underdog to sprint towards danger saying, “Never fear, Underdog is here,” uncontrolled curiosity and charging put mortal dogs at risk.
When distractions or danger appear for a well-trained dog, a simple command sends him into a sit position where he stays quietly until released. A well-taught stay command means that dog owners don’t need to be worried about what is going on around them because their dog will remain in the stay position until the release signal is given.
Tips for Learning Sit-Stay
Service dogs are recognized masters of this skill but every dog is capable of maintaining the stay command and many other basic commands. Obedience training is the foundation that uses positive reinforcement, treats, and consistent communication to achieve this.
Start with these simple tips on how to train your dog to stay.
Be in a Positive Mental State
To set the stage for successful training experience, the trainer (usually the owner) should be in a positive frame of mind, and should be focused on a win-win outcome. Don’t attempt a dog training session if you’re stressed from a horrible day at the office or irritable from being up with a teething baby all night. Dogs are very intuitive creatures and can sense that you’re a bit off and will attempt to skirt the rules.
Allow Plenty of Time to Teach Your Dog
Like any other educational activity, neither party should feel rushed during a dog training session. So, carve out a generous block of time, and ensure that you won’t have to cut the teaching experience short to dash off to another commitment. Be aware of the dog’s body clock as well. If his attention span tends to lessen as the day goes on, schedule the training exercise for the morning hours when he’s generally more alert and attentive.
Note: Even the best training sessions don’t change behaviors overnight. You’ll need to consistently train to properly condition your dog.
Start Your Dog Training in a Quiet Place
Create a training environment that’s conducive to a good outcome by choosing an out-of-the-way spot that will minimize the chance of interruptions. For example, consider teaching your dog to stay in a family room or in an enclosed backyard. Discourage family members from interrupting these interactive learning sessions.
Teach Your Dog to Sit on Cue
After your dog learns the simple “sit” sequence, he’s in a great position to tackle the stay, down, and heel challenges. But, first things first. This easy-to-follow cheat sheet incorporates the desired action quickly followed by a reward. If you consistently practice this technique with your dog, he’ll gradually regard it as a habit rather than a task.
Teach Your Dog The Sit Sequence
The sit sequence is the first step to developing your dog’s ability to stay:
- Place a small treat in your hand, and kneel down in front of your dog.
- Hold the treat next to the dog’s nose.
- Raise your hand so the treat is just out of reach.
- Instruct your dog to, “Sit.”
- If your dog tries to snap up the treat, gently guide his backside into a sitting position with your other hand.
- When the dog sits down, firmly say “Sit.”
- When he performs the proper action, reward him with and a treat and phrase, “Good boy.”
- Repeat the sit sequence training several times daily for fastest results.
Using Treats or Other Rewards
When you’re teaching your dog to sit, and he performs the desired action on cue, give him verbal praise by saying a short word such as “good” or “yes.” Or, engage in some clicker training by using a small device that makes a short staccato sound when it’s pressed. After saying the positive reinforcement word or pressing the clicker, follow up with a reward. Always perform the sequence in the same way, as that helps the dog to link the two actions together.
When choosing a food reward, realize that your dog probably doesn’t value every food equally. High-value treats keep his attention and create a better training session. For example, he might not assign much value to small pieces of dry kibble. However, your dog’s nose can probably sniff out those gourmet dog treats, which will likely score much higher on his value meter.
Regardless of your choice, use very small treats that won’t affect his appetite. Using small-size snacks also lessens the chance that he’ll keep chewing away rather than watching your actions.
Other Types of Rewards
Let’s say your dog seems to love his special toy more than his food. Or, perhaps he’s a pushover for belly rubs and back massages. Or, maybe he prefers a good game of fetch to any other form of exercise. Whatever his passion, turn it into a sought-after commodity that he receives after performing a proper sit.
Teach Your Dog to Stay with Short Training Sessions
After your dog regularly displays the correct sit behavior on cue, he’s ready for the next dog training challenge: Mastering the stay sequence. This action is completely contrary to his natural desire to roam around the room, checking out his surroundings and getting acquainted with the people around him. In other words, you’re about to teach him a lesson in self-control.
Teach Your Dog The Stay Sequence
- Once your dog masters sit on command, he is ready to learn the stay sequence.
- Give your dog the sit command.
- Place a treat in your palm. Extend your hand in front of you, with your palm facing up.
- Firmly instruct your dog to, “Stay.”
- Take a step backward.
- If your dog continues to sit, give him verbal praise and a treat. (Note: Do not praise him if he is in a posture ready to move forward or get up otherwise you are praising him for making up his mind to move before you give him the signal to do so.)
- Repeat the sequence, adding more backward steps each time.
- Consistently recognize your dog for performing an appropriate stay whether it’s for a short time or longer periods.
Throw in a Few Distractions
Once your dog seems comfortable with the sit-stay sequence and performs the proper actions for short periods, test his attention span by introducing a series of distractions. First, cue a family member or other familiar person to casually walk into the room, ignoring the dog while completing a task or picking up an object.
Next, ask someone to snack on a desirable food while sitting near the family food hound. Finally, bring another leashed dog into the training session, and see if that makes your dog break his concentration. If your dog moves and abandons his exercise, no worries. It simply means that he needs more practice.
Keep Up the Positive Reinforcement
To help your dog turn his sit exercise into an ingrained habit, give him the sit command at different points throughout the day. Always teach the two-step sequence in the same way, providing a tasty treat or fun experience after he displays the correct behavior.
Although your dog doesn’t realize it, he’s a partner in an ongoing positive transformation exercise. Basically, you’ve given him a reward to increase the chances that he’ll perform the correct action every time you ask. Over time, communication with your dog should become easier, and you might also enjoy a higher degree of mutual respect.
Treat Your Dog to a Walk or Other Exercise
Reward him with what he loves most after training sessions to let him burn off steam from focusing for extended periods of time. Leave the house, and take him for a long walk around the neighborhood, or start an energetic game of fetch or tug-of-war with him. If he’s a water-loving pooch, take him to the lake for a refreshing swim or “retrieve the tennis” ball game. When you’re training your dog, these fun activities can serve as another reward and important bonding time.
Structure the Dog Training Sessions
To get the best results from the dog training experience, take your dog’s natural inclinations and learning style into account. Some dogs have the capacity to maintain long training sessions while others need to start with short sessions and grow into longer ones.
Follow these simple teaching guidelines that set the stage for success:
- Aim for short training sessions, as dogs typically have short attention spans. Ideally, each training session shouldn’t last for more than 15 minutes. Within that time frame, cue the sit and stay behaviors multiple times. In addition, start incorporating this skills practice into your dog’s normal routine. As an example, cue your dog to sit before you present a brand-new toy or dental treat.
- Use the same exact teaching commands for each sequence. Stick to the same word or phrase, delivered in the same way each time. Ask other family members to follow this practice as well. Human consistency is critical for dog training success.
- End each training session with a skill the dog does well. Don’t keep going, as you (and/or the dog) will eventually become frustrated or bored with the whole exercise, and that will negatively affect the session’s outcome.
- Take your practice sessions into different settings. If you want the dog to demonstrate the correct behavior everywhere he goes, take him out and cue him to practice his sit and stay skills in varied locations. Choose different rooms, or leave the house and walk him into the yard. Visit several friends’ homes, and take him to the dog park – and everywhere else he’s likely to go.
Five Valuable Benefits of Obedience Training
There is so much to be gained when dogs are properly trained. It builds a relationship of trust between dog and dog owner that keeps dogs safe, allows them to interact and do more with the family, and satisfies the mental growth needs of dogs. Dogs and dog owners are happier with successful obedience training.
Here are five benefits of obedience training:
Better Bonding Experience
It’s not much fun trying to control an unruly dog who won’t listen to simple commands. Maybe your dog jumps, and constantly pulls and tugs on his leash during his daily walks. Indoors, he burrows into the trash and commits other acts of mischief. These maddening episodes cause considerable frustration for dog owners everywhere, making it difficult to enjoy a loving pet ownership experience.
After consistent obedience training, however, dogs become conditioned to react on cue. Once he has mastered basic commands and learned the fine art of impulse control, he’s more likely to be a good citizen when out in the general public making it easier to take him more often. That good behavior leads to happier dog owners and a more satisfying bonding experience.
After your dog has mastered basic obedience commands, you can better integrate him into family activities and other social events. If he can greet other people without leaping on them, walk on a loose leash without pulling wildly in every direction, and come when he is called, he’ll become a delight to have around rather than a misbehaving delinquent who stays at home in a crate.
Dogs are naturally curious and sociable creatures who generally operate within a pack structure and defer to their pack leader. Whenever they meet other dogs, each dog’s actions reflect their perception of their social position compared to the other dog(s). Each dog’s actions also send cues on how well they’ve been socialized and whether they’ve learned what’s “acceptable” and “non-acceptable” in the dog world.
Here’s where some well-rounded dog training can help. After you teach your dog basic commands such as sit and stay and gain increased control over his actions, he’s ready to meet other dogs in safe situations. Whether he gets acquainted with a friend’s dog while on a leisurely walk or on romps with other same-sized dogs at the dog park, each interaction will help him to become more comfortable with dog dynamics.
Increased Safety and Well-Being
You always want to keep your dog safe and out of trouble, whether he’s at a family get-together or enjoying his daily walks along a well-traveled neighborhood street. When his actions are more predictable, and he has become accustomed to following simple commands, he’s much less of a danger to himself and the people and dogs around him. After training your dog, he’s less likely to bolt off the leash and into the neighbor’s garden or into potentially disastrous traffic.
Extra Owner Socialization Opportunities
Pet parents can also benefit from regular socialization with other dogs and pet parents. A busy professional with a demanding schedule or a parent who juggles multiple family commitments might welcome some time with other dog owners. Everyone’s can trade stories of their dog’s successes (and ongoing challenges) to test other ways to succeed with training. In other words, obedience instruction provides a win-win outcome for everybody.
Fewer Puppy Problems
Puppies are some of the most charming creatures on the planet. These cute fluffy balls of fur are like liquid energy, as they never stop moving and seem determined to get into mischief every chance they get. As appealing as your puppy is, however, he can’t distinguish between right or wrong behavior, so his owner must take time to teach him the rules of the road. He might also benefit from some crate training.
Of course, training your puppy must take his short attention span into consideration. So, aim for no more than 15 minutes of training at a time and consider splitting sessions into five-minute time blocks throughout the day. Ask every family member to work with him, and repeat each training behavior everywhere in the house.
After he becomes familiar with the basic sit-stay sequence, plus several other desirable actions, integrate those tasks into every part of his life. For example, cue him to sit before you present his food bowl, as this helps to prevent future begging episodes. If he learns that he must sit before you open the door to go outside, he’ll be less likely to sprint out the door when a friend stops by to visit.
Although training any puppy takes time and patience, it pays off exponentially in the bonding and quality time that a dog and his owner experience together. Good obedience training helps cue emerging behavior problems to thwart them before they become hard-to-reverse habits. Group training additionally helps socialize dogs with other people and dogs in a safe, controlled setting.
Risks of Not Teaching Your Dog to Stay
Effectively training your dog requires considerable time and dedication, and you must be in it for the long haul. In other words, it’s not realistic to expect your dog to perform perfectly when his partner doesn’t consistently take the lead in dog training exercises.
What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t get this command down right?
If you don’t teach your dog to sit and stay he won’t get the structure and discipline that should keep him from running amok in the house and when outside. He becomes a danger to people, other dogs, and himself by not being in control.
An out-of-control dog leads to car accidents, dog fights, and unintentional injury to others by jumping on people and pushing them down. Dog owners are liable for their dog’s actions and are required to keep them controlled. Your dog also deserves to be trained in a way that keeps him safe and healthy. He doesn’t know what a car will do to him; you do.
Make a commitment to ongoing dog training that develops control with sit-stay commands and extends to other skills such as don’t touch and leave it. Consistent training over time creates healthy dog habits contributing to a better quality of life for everyone in your family.
Kimberlee Leonard is a certified pet first aid and CPR instructor. Her company, Safer Family Pets helps families prepared for worst-case scenarios including evacuations during natural disasters. She enjoys time with her beagle mix, Arky who enjoys “sit-walks” where he sits more than walks, enjoying the fresh mountain air.