Training your dog how to stay is fairly simple, but can be one of the more frustrating behaviors to train if your dog is overly excitable and has trouble staying put for more than a fraction of a second. The key to teaching stay is for your dog to learn that by staying in the position you put them in, they continue to receive rewards. The stay behavior becomes rewarding, which means your dog will do it more often and with more reliability.
Step 1. Ask your dog for a sit or down and reward for the correct behavior.
Step 2. Say the command “stay” (or “wait” if you prefer) and wait a couple of seconds before giving your verbal marker such as “Yes! Good Stay!” and giving your dog a food reward.
Step 3. Give your dog a release word such as “Ease” or “Ok!” and back up a few paces to invite them to follow you.
Step 4. Ask your dog for a sit or down and repeat the previous steps, adding a few seconds each time that you ask your dog to stay before they get the reward. Work up to thirty seconds, then one minute, two minutes, etc.
Step 5. Practice this often, and change locations to gradually more distracting environments so your dog learns to perform this behavior everywhere.
Step 6. Once your dog can reliably stay put with you right next to them, begin adding distance. Even if your dog can reliably stay for five minutes you will need to back up a few steps while you work on distance. Place your dog in a sit or down, give them the stay command and back up a couple steps. Immediately walk back and reward your dog.
Step 7. Continue working with increasing the distance you can walk from your dog while they remain in the stay position.
*If at any point during distance training your dog stands up to follow you just give them a non-rewarding marker such as “Oops! or “Nope.” and go back a few steps in the training.
Step 8. Once you’ve worked with duration and distance it is time to add them together. As per usual when moving into a new area in training it is usually a good idea to regress back a few steps to avoid frustration. Place your dog in a sit or down, tell them to stay and take a few steps back. Wait five seconds or so, and then walk back to your dog and reward them.
In teaching your dog stay we talked about release words. This is a word that lets your dog know it is ok to break the stay and move. It is an important aspect of training stay that many people overlook. Without a release word, the dog will not know when it is ok to get up and move around, and may decide to get up on their own especially when you are working on longer stays. When the dog knows that they must wait for the release marker before they get up it can make training the stay much easier.