Mastering the “stay” command as early as possible will make life a lot easier for both you and your puppy. This can help you keep them under control, while also keeping them out of mischief. It could even save their life!
It’s simple, but it takes time. Prepare yourself for some failures. It’s like when you save and protect your bed covers with PawPad® during housebreaking. Every failure gets you that much closer to success.
Today we’ll walk through how to train your dog to “stay” in simple and easy steps. It’s based on the 3 D’s of dog training: Duration, Distance and Distraction.
Start with holding your puppy’s attention in a stay command for, literally, just a few seconds at a time. In those short bursts, raise your hand and give the “stay” command. Maintain constant eye contact. This part is crucial. If you don’t have eye contact, you don’t have your dog.
Be sure to reward them right away with verbal praise, loving pats, and of course, their favorite treat. They’re going to need lots of love and rewards throughout this process.
Now that we can hold a stay for 5-10 seconds, it’s time to throw some distance into the equation.
Like duration, you’re going to start off super-simple. Work your stay command, but take a step back – Just a single step back to start. Keep that constant eye contact and steadily work your way up to a few steps back.
Again, set your dog up for success. If your eye contact is telling you that they’re close to breaking the command, you can rush back before they break. That keeps the stay command intact, and they still get a reward.
When teaching distance, mix things up. Don’t always go one step, then two, then three etc.. Go two steps back, then four, then one. You can also step over to the left or right, as long as you can maintain eye contact.
Your pup is absolutely killing it and you’re ready for the final phase! This one is the most difficult and the most important.
You need your dog to be able to hold the stay command in busy areas, like parks or streets, with a lot happening around them.
Repeat the steps from your distance training, but do things to try to throw them off of their game. Playing with a squeaky toy can be a great place to start. Give it a few squeaks and get them to stay. As they master that, try throwing the toy off to the side, while still getting them to hold the stay.
Bonus D: Discouragement
This D is for you. Don’t get discouraged!
It takes a lot of dog owner’s months to work up to distraction, and maybe even longer to fully master it. Stay patient and stay positive.
Life is just so much easier once you learn how to train your dog to lay down and stay. So put in the work and keep at it!
Don’t assume that your puppy can master this during an afternoon in the backyard. Manage your own expectations and the process will be a lot better for both of you.