How can I get Mugsy to sit and just stay there?
What does stay really mean? Stay means the dog is in a desired position until the human invites the dog to get out of that position. I teach a stay by using two words. My first word is either sit or down, followed by an end cue which for me is “okay.” Okay means that it is okay to get out of that position.
Does that make sense so far? Basically, I do not use the word “stay.” For me it is just an extra word that doesn’t need to be there. My sequence looks something like this:
-I ask the dog to sit or down.
-The dog gets into position.
-As long as the dog is in that position he is “staying.”
-I verbally reinforce the wanted behavior by telling the dog “good boy/girl.” (For staying.)
-I tell the dog “okay” which means you can get up now.
-I reward the dog with food or toy.
In the beginning I start off with very short “stays.” Each time I repeat the process I increase the amount of time that the dog is in the position for. This is how you start to increase the Duration of how long your dog can “stay” in the position.A couple other “D’s” that are very important when teaching a “stay” are Distance and Distraction.Distance means how far away you are from your dog when it is in the desired position. When teaching this take baby steps. If you try to increase the amount of distance between you and your dog too quickly you are setting your dog up for failure. When teaching Distance, it is a good idea to practice walking back to your dog and rewarding it, as well as releasing your dog to come to you to receive its reward. (Don’t forget to use verbal reinforcement as well to tell your dog it is doing the correct thing.)Lastly we have Distractions. It is important to practice a “stay” with distractions because in a real life scenario you better believe there will be some of them around. I start off with very small distractions. Every dog is different so find something that your dog doesn’t really care for in the beginning. While your dog is in the sit or down position, drop the distraction in the most uninviting way you can think of. When the dog remains in the position, tell him “good boy/girl” and reward. From there, start to increase the difficulty of the distractions.*If you are currently using the word stay, you can continue to. It will not hurt anything. I am just letting you know that technically it is a word that is not needed as long as you have a consistent end cue.
*If at any point during this training your dog messes up, have him go back into the position and start over, it’s not that big of a deal. Failure is often a part of learning.
*Use lots of verbal reinforcement to let the dog know it is doing a good job!
Here is a 3-part video series on teaching the “Stay” cue:
Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA
Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org) and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V, follow him on Facebook by clicking here.