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How to teach a dog to stay

June 30, 2020

Are you in the middle of training your dog? Stay is a great command for laying a foundation for future training, getting your dog’s focus, and even keeping them safe in some situations. Whether you’re trying to train an older shelter dog or a new puppy, here are tips on how to teach your dog to stay in a variety of settings to help them master the cue.

Teach your dog stay with “proofing”

When you’re training your dog with any cue, remember to proof the cue before moving on. Proofing is simply reinforcing a behavior by practicing it under different variables. The four most common variables of training are:

  • Distance
  • Distraction
  • Duration
  • Location 

Practicing these four variables of training with cues will help your dog recall them in just about any circumstance.

Where to teach your dog to stay

Mix up your location to get your dog used to staying in different situations. 

Your entryway or foyer

Get your dog thinking about good habits by training them to sit and stay before you exit or when new people come in. Helpful hint: If your pup gets too excited to stay while people come in the door, break it down—teach your dog to stay in the foyer with no distractions first. Add distractions in gradually as your dog gets more solid.

Your local pet store 

Pet stores are a great spot for proofing stay with your dog because of all the exciting sights and sounds: treats, toys, people, and other pups. Put your dog’s stay skills to the test while you browse supplies.

Anywhere outdoors 

Once you teach your dog to stay in your home, get outside! Nature is often the best source of distractions. Ask your dog to stay every time they see a squirrel, a neighbor, or another dog while you’re out. This is especially helpful if you have an outdoor hobby your dog can tag along for like hiking or picnics.

A park 

Between runners, dog friends, and small furry creatures, local parks are usually jam-packed with distractions. Practice with your dog by having them sit and stay until released before meeting another dog or person. 

Tips for teaching your dog stay:

  1. Practice when your dog is already tired. If your dog hasn’t had a good run all day, it’s probably not the best time to teach them to stay as it requires impulse control. Before working on heavy stays, take the edge off of your dog by going for a long walk, playing a rousing game of fetch, or taking them out to the dog park.
  2. Leash it up. Have a dog that breaks their stay and walks away? Set yourself up for success by keeping your dog on a leash until they’re more consistent. That way you can redirect your dog back to the area where you told them to stay and begin again if they decide to get up.
  3. Use high-value treats. If you find you are having trouble teaching your dog to stay, up the ante by bringing out a better treat. Treats don’t always have to be food, though. Some dogs are more motivated by balls, games of tug, or kind words of encouragement than they are by a snack.  Think about what matters to your dog and work it into your training session as reinforcement for a job well done.

This article was originally written by our partners at Spot On.

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