The Top 6 Reason’s Your Dog Won’t Stay

Just One of the Requirements for Canine Good Citizen Test

Are you having trouble getting your dog to stay?  These are probably some of the reasons why!

#6.  You’ve Never Really Taught Your Dog to Stay

Have you ever really taught your dog to “Stay”?

Stay is a complicated command, and not a very positive one.  In order to learn how to “Stay” your dog has to make the mistake of getting up and making a mistake after you have given the command.

For example if I tell my dog to stay (the first time) and let’s say he stays for 2 minutes does that mean he has learned the stay command?  No, that would mean I was lucky that he was that successful the first time.

In fact in order to learn and hasten training he has to get up, move, and be put back into the position.

In fact, it almost feels like punishment because instead of happening as the dog shows the behavior the learning happens AFTER the dog makes a mistake. If you need help teaching your dog to “Stay” stay tuned for an upcoming article that will teach you how!

So we must be even more patient when teaching it and proof it in various locations! Which leads me to the next reason your dog won’t stay.

#5.  You’ve Never Worked Your Dog Around Distractions

I’ve said it many times in many articles.

In order for dogs to learn they must experience the command in many locations under many kinds of distractions.

Dogs learn best in a neutral, boring, or sterile environment like at home where there are fewer distractions and there is less going on around them.

It is hard for dogs to LEARN in busy and distracting environments.  In order for them to be successful dogs should learn at home; and then they need to be proofed, tested and taught that they can still comply in busy places.

It may be easy for your dog to do a 5 minute down stay at home; and it may be nearly impossible for him to do a 30 second down stay outside where there are other people and/or dogs.

He must be taken back to square one and taught that he can be successful even when there are other things going on around him.  As you teach him and work with him you can extend the time that he stays and you can increase the distractions around him, if you work on it diligently.

If you don’t work on it, this skill will quickly go away!

#4.  You Inadvertently Reward Your Dog on a Schedule

Even Puppies Can Learn! Thanks to Zang Paw for the Photo

Even Puppies Can Learn! Thanks to Zang Paw for the Photo

We as humans tend to do things on a regular schedule.

We don’t mean to, we don’t even pay much attention but we are very scheduled creatures.

Go to any dog training class and watch the owners, most typically reward their dog within a certain number of seconds after the dog complies.  They get used to doing it every 3 seconds or 5 seconds or whatever is their habit.

You can see the look on their dog’s face if they go over the amount of time classic for their person.  That is when the dog gets up, breaks the command, or shows another behavior in the hopes of being rewarded.

It is as if 5 seconds has come; you haven’t rewarded me, so I must be doing something wrong.

In order to extend the duration of a behavior you must reward on a random schedule; at first 2 seconds, then 3 then 1 then 5 etc. randomly until you can work longer and longer periods of time with the dog continuing the behavior and being patient.

If your dog gets up every 5 seconds, or 10 seconds, or 1 minute (whatever it is) chances are you are not rewarding randomly but instead you have fallen prey to rewarding on a schedule.  Try to randomize your training by rewarding earlier than your dog is used to and then extending the time, slowly.

#3.  You Have No Patience

We live in a busy world.

When was the last time you sat down in a quiet room with no stimulation; that’s right no computer, no cell phone, no facebook, no TVor stereo, just a quiet room with your thoughts.

Most of us don’t get this opportunity very often and many people wouldn’t know what to do if they did.  The thought of a totally sterile environment scares some; they don’t know how to sit still without outside stimulation.

I like a quiet room, no TV, no stereo, no computer or phone just to sit and think and process life.  I don’t get to do it often, but I at least know how to do it.

People get so wrapped up in life and what they can stuff into a 24 hour period and along the way we lose our patience.

We have lost the ability to just be still so it is hard for us to give a command and just wait.

We get stuck in that schedule of doing everything every few seconds because we lack patience to extend the time out.

Working on “Stay” takes time and patience.  It is probably one of the hardest things you will teach your dog and if you aren’t patient enough to stick with it and continually work on it you’ll either never quite develop the behavior or it will quickly disperse from your dog training skills!

So if your dog knew how to stay once (perhaps he learned it in dog obedience school) but now he can’t perform, chances are you weren’t patient enough for him to learn in multiple places, and with multiple durations of time.

Some things are worth the investment in time, and dog training and teaching your dog a real stay is one of those things that is worth it once you get the behavior in control.

#2.  You Ask Your Dog to Stay (?); Not Tell Him to STAY

He'd Rather Be Active! Stay is Not Fun!

He’d Rather Be Active! Stay is Not Fun!



Does this sound familiar?

A lot of people ASK their dogs to “Stay”.

This used to drive me crazy in dog obedience classes; yet it is so very common.  I would guess there is at least one person in every class that will ASK their dog to stay by inflection “Staaaaaay?”  instead of telling their dog to STAY!

If you ask, you give the person or the animal more of a change to say NO.  By drawing out the command like that you are inferring that you don’t trust that the dog is going to do it anyway.

Most dogs are used to hearing forceful commands, even yelling sometimes (unfortunately) so it is odd to them when you ASK them to do something or you are already acting like they won’t.

Give the command and be confident and make sure you have taught the behavior before you ask for it!

#1.  You Don’t Work on Regular Basic Obedience

Although we consider the “Stay” command as “Basic Dog Obedience” the truth is that “Stay” is a pretty advanced skill.

  • If your dog doesn’t listen to you when you call him to come
  • If your dog doesn’t sit when you tell him to sit
  • If your dog doesn’t lay down when you ask him to down
  • If he is in trouble fairly frequently and doesn’t listen to you…

THEN chances are he isn’t going to “Stay” when you tell him to!

Basic obedience is crucial to having a good companion dog!

Schedule a time to work with your dog at least daily!  If you aren’t working with your dog you are probably both getting lazy!  Even well behaved dogs need to be trained and enjoy the training.

I recommend 5 times per day, actually.

Keep the sessions short and leave your dog wanting more!

Obedience and playing “the obedience” game should be the most fun thing for your dog, which will help him listen to you in times of stress.

Make dog obedience part of your regular life schedule, you’ll be thankful to have a dog that is well trained and your dog will be thankful to have an owner that spends quality time with him and gives him something to do!

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  1. Kerstin says:

    When teaching stay, should you always return to your dog when he has finished the command and reward him? Or can you call him to you when he has held the stay for the time you desired and then reward him after he comes to you? Would that confuse and make him want to come back to you early instead of waiting?


    Minette Reply:

    You can call him about 1% of the time, otherwise he will think you are going to call him and he will come to you and break his stay


  2. Cameron says:

    With distractions (other dogs), if my dog does break and run to the other distractions and I’m left chasing her, what is the next step? Wouldn’t she at the point forget the point of the exercise so placing her back at the spot in the same position not fully work?


    Minette Reply:

    I keep dogs on leash until I am certain they won’t break. I refuse to chase a dog.


  3. Holly says:

    I had issues getting my dog to stay on command but after just saying “Stay!” Firmly it did the trick. I kept saying “staaaay” as I was walking away and I think it confusing her. Thanks for the tips!


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