Stay Means Stay

The Resource for Everything About Dogs

Stay Means Stay

by Hope Saidel

Imagine your dog gets away from you ? the painter left the door open accidentally, the kids didn?t notice the dog running out with them, the leash slips from your hand when your dog dashes after the squirrel he?s spotted across the street.

If she?s crossed the street once safely ? you don?t want her to attempt it again. This is a situation to use the ?stay? command. Then you can go and get her.

To teach the stay, put on your dog?s collar and leash. Have your dog sit at your side. The leash should be very short, without choking or pulling the dog. Tell your dog to ?stay? and step directly in front of him. You should be close, without crowding. You should be able to pet your dog. If he doesn?t move, say ?good stay? and step back to where you started. Tell your dog ?free? and walk out position with her. Repeat from the start two or three times. Session one is done.

Every training session should have a purpose, be short, and end successfully. If you planned to practice the ?stay? five times, but you get three good repetitions ? quit! You did good. Let it go. Until the next time.

As your dog starts to understand the ?stay? you can work to increase your distance from the dog. Or you can work on the length of time your dog must maintain the stay. Don?t work on both time and distance at once. Every time you are unsuccessful, go back to where you?re confident the dog can succeed. Increase incrementally ? if you push it too far, just go back and try again.

Stay always means ?stay.? Use it when you don?t want your dog to move ? at all ? until you come for him. It?s not the word you use when you?re leaving for work and the dog wants to rush out the door with you.

Of course, you can use any word at all, to mean whatever you choose. We know of people who train their dogs in German, French, even Klingon! Dogs have extensive vocabularies and the words you choose should be consistent throughout your training. ?Stay? means ?do not move an inch until I come and get you.? ?Free,? or whatever alternate you use, means ?okay, you can get up and move now.?

Do test your dog?s understanding after a few training sessions. Gently pull on the leash. Dogs will naturally resist that gentle tugging and try their best to stay! Tell himwhat a good dog he is and, if you?re using food in training, give him a treat! Reinforce often at first and randomly as your training proceeds. Dogs are always hopeful that a ?cookie? will be coming their way!

Keep training sessions short and sweet ? don?t accept shoddy performance, from yourself or your dog. Whatever breed, however old, your dog can learn.

Hope Saidel is the co-owner of, a bricks-and-mortar and online small dog shop featuring fun, affordable and practical products for small dogs. She has trained and competed in Obedience with small dogs for over a decade and is Registrar of the North Shore Dog Training Club.

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