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Ask the Trainer: Teaching Your Dog to Stay

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Hi Steve,
My dog will sit when I tell him to, but he won’t stay. Why is that? How can I get him to stay?
– Michele M.

Hi Michele,

This is an all too common question and struggle for most owners. Many people think their dog is not listening out of spite or some other reason. When in reality, your dog simply does not know they need to stay.  

Dogs know “Sit”, “Down”, “Come”, etc., but they think that’s all there is to it. They need to be taught that each command has a built-in or implied “Stay”. Therefore, it becomes a “Sit-Stay”, “Down-Stay”, etc.

Why does our dog learn the command but not the “Stay” portion? We never tell them when they can and should get up from the command. As a result, they get up whenever they feel like it. I can’t blame them for that, it only makes sense.  

So how do we resolve this? We tell the dog to get in the obedience command (i.e. “Sit”, “Down”, etc.) and we tell them to get out of the command.

You must teach your dog a release command and use it EVERY TIME you put them in a command. For example: I put a dog in a “Sit” and then I release them from that command by saying “Free” and give them a treat. Once you have taught your dog to perform the command and remain in the command until released, you are building their understanding of what “Stay” means.  

Now that your dog understands that every command has a distinct start point (the command) and end point (free), you can now begin developing reliability.  

How do you develop true reliability? There are three distinct areas that need to be systematically improved upon… The Three D’s of Dog Training: Distance, Duration, and Distraction.

To recap: make sure that you always tell your dog when the obedience command is over, by releasing them with a specific release command. Without that distinguishing endpoint, you will never have a reliable “Stay” with your dog.

Putnam NY Dog Trainer, Steve Reid of S.R. Dog Training offers adult dog training and puppy training in Westchester NY.  Learn more at www.srdogtraining.com and www.Facebook.com/SRDogTraining.

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