How to Train Your Dog to Stay

Your dog should stay until you release him.
Your dog should stay until you release him. (Image: jarih/iStock/Getty Images)

Training your dog to stay is useful when you don’t want him bounding outside every time you open the door. The click and treat method is effective; the click sends an immediate signal that your dog has done something right. Click when your dog stays, and immediately give a treat.

Command Your Dog to Sit

It’s easier for a dog to stay when sitting versus standing, so before you command your dog to stay, command her to sit. Once she sits, click and treat. If she gets up, command her to sit again, but this time, raise one hand in a “talk to the hand” gesture, and say, “stay.” Maintain eye contact with your dog, and play statue with neither of you moving for 3 or 4 seconds. Once your dog holds the stay position for those few seconds, click and treat.

Repeat this several times. Increase the stay time to about 10 seconds, and then go back to 3 seconds and then maybe to 5 seconds. You decide how long your dog is in stay position. If your dog breaks the stay position before you release her by clicking, make a sound such as “eh” or “oops” and start again. That’s enough for the first session.

Gradually Walk Away

Command your dog to sit. Use your “talk to the hand” gesture, and say, “stay.” Maintain eye contact and slowly back away. Once you get about 10 feet away, and if your dog is still in stay position, click and say “OK.” Then give a treat. Your dog might come to you for the treat, or you can go to him. It doesn’t matter because once you click and say, “OK,” you’ve released your dog from stay.

Keep repeating this exercise, increasing the distance and time you keep him in stay, decreasing it and increasing it again. If your dog breaks stay before you release him, calmly use your word -- eh or oops -- and continue.

Introduce Distractions

Command your dog to sit, and say, “stay.” Standing in front of her, raise your arm. If your dog maintains the stay position, click and treat. Change your movements; they could involve a hop, a jumping jack or a jog. Whenever you are done, click and treat if your dog maintained the stay. If not use your correcting word, and start again. Have someone walk by you and your dog. If your dog stays, click and treat. Have that person do something irresistibly fun like tossing or bouncing a ball. Click and treat if your dog stays.

Be Patient

Make sure your dog is ready for her training session by giving you eye contact. Short, frequent training sessions work best when teaching stay. Your dog won’t learn to stay the first time you say it. You’ll need to repeat the exercises multiple times. If you are consistent with your rewards and praise and matter of fact with your corrections, your dog should look forward to the training sessions. Once your dog consistently stays on command, you won’t need the clicker anymore. Saying “OK” is enough to release him.

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