Chapter 12

How to teach a dog to stay?

Stay is one of the most basic and useful commands for your dog to learn. It can come in handy in various situations, either for your convenience or for your dog’s safety. Take a look at 6 simple steps to teach a dog to stay that we provide in this article.

woman teaching dog stay

Reading time : 5 min

As all dog owners know, dogs don’t always act in the way we expect them to. The purpose of every type of dog training is for the owner to get more control over the dog’s impulses and instincts. This is not only convenient, but sometimes also crucial for the dog’s safety and health. Teaching a dog to stay is easy, and the cue can be used in many scenarios, either to protect your dog or as a part of a game.

Before you start the training, make sure that your dog has already learned and is comfortable in one of the starting positions. It’s up to you whether you train your dog to stay in sit, down or stand, but bear in mind that it’s best to start the training with the position that suits your dog best.


Reasons for teaching your dog to stay

A dog sitting in a garden.

Teaching your dog basic commands is a good way of controlling their behaviour. In this aspect, training a dog to stay is particularly useful, as it can help you out in many situations when your dog’s natural reaction would be to move.

Dog’s safety

Being a dog owner, you might have already encountered yourself in situations when your dog’s health or safety were endangered. When your dog knows the stay command, you can be calm that they will stay by your side before crossing the street, or when you have to clean up the broken glass from the floor.

Dog’s obedience

Controlling your dog’s impulses will be beneficial not only for the pet’s safety, but by making them more obedient, you can prevent unwanted behaviours. If you struggle with your dog running to the entry door when you have guests or hurrying back home after a walk before you manage to clean them up, teaching the stay command can make your life as an owner much easier.

6 steps to teach a dog to stay

Dogs during a stay training session.

Step One: Choose a location

As with any other new trick, teaching your dog to stay will require a lot of patience and consistency from you and plenty of concentration from your dog. To make the process easier and more pleasant for both sides, start the training in a quiet location, where your dog will not be exposed to too many distractions. The place you choose for training should also be familiar to the dog, so that they do not have the urge to run around exploring it.

Step Two: Have your dog in the starting position

No matter whether you’ll want your dog to learn to hold their stay in sit, down or stand position, they have to be familiar with this command before you move further. Start by asking your dog to get in the lying, sitting or standing.

Step Three: Reward the dog

When your dog successfully executes your command, praise them, and reward them with a treat. Give your dog the treats in the way that the dog doesn’t have to leave the position they are in. Make sure that you use healthy training snacks that your dog likes. The better the prize, the more motivation the dog will have to train. This type of training, namely rewarding the dog after they successfully do what you ask them to, is part of positive reinforcement training.

Step Four: Repeat the steps, building the duration

Repeat several times all the previous steps, increasing the duration between the sit, stand, or down command and the reward you give to your dog. Do not hurry and build the duration gradually. At first, your dog will be able to stay in position just for several seconds, and it might take a lot of practice to increase the length to up to 15 seconds.

Step Five: Introduce stay and release commands

When your dog is staying in the position for at least 15 seconds, you can move on to further steps: introducing stay and release commands. Once your dog gets in the starting position, ask them to stay in the position by saying “stay,” and give the reward when they still hold the stay. Then, give a release command – this can be either a hand signal or a verbal command like “ok” or “go” – and toss the treat a bit further away from the dog, so that they have to get out of the position to retrieve it.

Step Six: Increase the distance and add distractions

As mentioned above, it’s best to start the training in the calm and quiet environment, but once your dog learned the behaviour, they should be ready to train with small distractions. Gradually increase the distance between yourself and the dog when giving the command. You may also start training in other locations, at first just in another room of the house and later trying it outdoors, on walks or in a park.

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Extra tips on training your dog to stay

A woman giving treats to a dog.

Similarly to other types of dog training, the key to success is keeping the sessions short and positive. There are also other three factors that play an extremely important role in training the dog to stay. They are referred to as the Three D’s: Duration, Distance and Distractions. When your dog already knows the stay behaviour, you may continue the training by increasing the difficulty level by working on the Three D's.

Building duration

Duration is the amount of time your dog holds their stay. At the very beginning it will be around 2-3 seconds, but you should aim at gradually increasing the duration as your dog gets comfortable in the position. If they break the stay before you give them the release command, try again with shorter duration that they previously succeeded in.

Increasing the distance

Once your dog holds the stay for longer periods of time, you may start to increase the distance between the two of you. Similarly to building the duration, you shouldn’t expect the results overnight and you need to remember to work on this slowly and gradually. Move one step back when giving the “stay” cue, but always return to your dog when releasing them from the position.

Introducing distractions

Practicing the stay command in various locations after your dog has learned the behaviour is the way to proof it against distractions. When adding distractions, such as changing the setting, you should lower your criteria for duration and distance, and slowly build on what your dog already can do. What might be helpful is giving the dog higher value treat rewards, so that they are more motivated to remain in the stay.

Training a dog to stay is a great way to control their behaviour and avoid many unpleasant or even dangerous situations, thus making your dog safe and happy. If you follow the training steps in our guide, learning the stay command will become an easy task for your dog, and you can be sure the training sessions will be successful.

Continue reading our guide

This article is a part of a complete guide on the subject. Do not miss the next chapters.

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