The STAY command is one of the best skills you can teach your dog.     What does STAY mean?  For this article, STAY means that you are asking your dog to hold a specific position no matter what is going on around them until you release them.  Generally the STAY command is combined with control position.   The three most common control positions used are SIT, DOWN, and STAND.  But getting your dog to do a solid STAY in any position can be quite a challenge!  Here are a few steps to help you!


If you want your dog to SIT STAY, make sure you have taught him how to SIT first.  Once your dog knows what SIT means, then you can add the STAY command.


When you ask your dog to STAY they should be paying attention to you and waiting for you to release them from that position.   If your dog’s attention starts to wander to something else, then chances are good that he will be breaking his stay any second.  Interrupt him, by saying “Eh Eh” or his name to tapping him on the head to get his attention back on you!


When you ask your dog to SIT STAY or DOWN STAY, when can they move out of that position?   Answer:  When YOU RELEASE them.  Pick a word that means the dog can move out of the position.  Common words are FREE, DONE, OK.  Always make sure you release your dog before he breaks out of a stay position.


What do you do when your dog breaks a STAY?  Fix or reposition him back to the place and position he was in before he broke his stay.   If your dog was in a DOWN position, then you would reposition your dog in the same spot and the same position and ask him to STAY again.  This time make sure your RELEASE him before he breaks.  This might mean that you block a distraction with your body, or you decrease the amount of time you are asking him to STAY.  Remember, your dog does not get a treat or a reward if you have to “fix” his STAY!


DURATION:  Duration is the first D that you should work on.   If your dog can be in a SIT STAY or a DOWN STAY consistently for 3 seconds, then up the duration to 5 seconds.   Once your dog can STAY in any room, and outside for 5 seconds, then up the duration to 10 seconds.  And so on…..  Once your dog can SIT STAY and/or DOWN STAY anywhere, inside and outside, for 30 seconds or longer, then you can start working on the next D – Distractions

DISTRACTIONS:  Practicing STAY with distractions is key to making sure your dog has a solid STAY and won’t see something or smell something and break the STAY.   Remember when your dog breaks their stay before you release them, they are rewarding themselves by getting closer to whatever it is that they are interested in.    When working on distractions it is important that you start with a small distraction, say you hold a ball where they can see it, but you are not moving it around.   Or you just move your leg out to the side.  If your dog can STAY for 20-30 seconds while in the presence of a small distraction, then change the distraction and continue to practice.  When your dog is ready gradually make the distractions more difficult.  Example:

Level 1:  Hold the ball where the dog can see it

Level 2: Throw the ball up in the air and catch with same hand

Level 3: Bounce the ball to the side of you

Level 4: Toss or roll the ball away from the dog

Practice these levels with many different types of distractions like squeaky toys, another person, another dog, different sounds such as clapping or whistling, etc.   Practice these levels in every room in the house and various locations outside.  When your dog can STAY for 30 seconds or more in the presence of distractions, then go back and start working on increasing duration again in an environment where there are distractions.

DISTANCE:  Distance is the third D.   Adding distance means increasing the distance between you and your dog where your dog holds his position,  and one of the hardest to work on.   NEVER start adding distance if your dog is still having a hard time with Duration and Distractions.   When you add distance, keep it small.   Take one step to the side, or backwards.   If your dog does not break his STAY, then step back in front of him and give him a treat.   Gradually add move steps and move away from your dog in different directions.  ALWAYS go back to your dog to reward them.

The most common problem that owners have when they are teaching their dog to STAY, is they either move through these steps too fast or they start combining the steps too soon.   WORK SLOWLY AND METHODICALLY through the 3 D’s and your dog will have a solid stay!


To keep a solid STAY command, your dog needs to practice it EVERY DAY.   Incorporate it in your daily activities.  It’s simple!   Ask your dog to do a SIT STAY or a DOWN STAY for 30 seconds:

  • Before you let him outside
  • Before you let him eat his breakfast and dinner
  • To get a treat
  • Before he can run over and pick up this toy
  • Before he can get in the car
  • So you can wipe off his paws on a rainy and wet day
  • Practice while you are walking around the block
  • Play games that reinforce the stay command like hide and seek

And that is just a few examples.  You can build it into everything you do.

Remember support your dog!  Do not get angry if he cannot stay as long as you want… Go back to kindergarten any time your dog needs it!  By practicing every day and supporting your dog through all of the steps, your dog will astound you with his ability to STAY in all circumstances!


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