Stays

Step by step guide on how to master rock solid stays

When training your dog to stay there are three main areas to focus on;

  1. Duration - how long they stay in a sit/down.

  2. Distance - how far away you are from them.

  3. Distraction - what is going on in the environment.

In this chapter we will be going over how to teach each of these steps.

To begin with, each of these areas should be worked on independently, i.e. working only on building duration or only on building up distance. Once each area has been mastered you can then challenge your dog further by combining them, initially lowering your criteria to ensure their success.

 

In order to train solid stays you must first work on Duration, gradually building up the length of time your dog can stay in the position you put them in. At this stage you are not moving away from your dog, you are just building up duration a second at a time until you reach the standard you are happy with. 

On mastering duration you can then start training your dog to stay while you add distance. Start by taking a baby step backwards, immediately returning to your dog to reward them if they stay. At this stage you are not adding any duration, just moving away and immediately returning to your dog to reward successful stays. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog one step at a time.

After duration and distance have been taught to a high standard where you dog is successful 9 times out of 10 you are ready to introduce distractions. Building up the level of distractions must be done gently to ensure your dog succeeds far more than the fail. Changing the environment in which you practice is the first distraction you can add, both duration and distance should be re-built slowly. Once your dog can stay in a variety of environments, even if only for a short period of time you can try something different. Anytime you change environment you will need to lower your criteria in order for your dog to accomplish what you have asked, i.e. if your dog can stay for 10 seconds at home aim for 4 seconds on a walk or if you can get 4 steps away at home aim for 1 on a walk.  

 

After many sessions of practicing (and being successful) with each of these key areas you can begin combining them, firstly duration and distance. Begin by taking 1 step away and return to your dog after 1 second, rewarding them if they stayed. Then move 1 step away for 2 seconds, 1 step away for 3 seconds and so on.

 

If at any point during these exercises your dog move, breaking the stay calmly put them back into position and start again. You may need to lower your criteria if they consistently make mistakes. As with all training your aim is for them to succeed, every time your dog breaks their stay it will undo some of the good work you have been doing. 

 

To help your dog understand when they should be staying and when they are allowed to move you are going to teach them a release word. A release word is a word that tells your dog they are allowed to move and do what they like until you ask them to do something else. Common release words are Okay, Free and Break. By teaching a release word stays become black and white; stay in position when you hear the 'wait/stay' command, only moving when you hear the release word. Start how you mean  to go on and start using the release word straight away to let your dog know when they are allowed to move out of the stay.

 

On mastering duration you can then start training your dog to stay while you add distance. Start by taking a baby step backwards, immediately returning to your dog to reward them if they stay. At this stage you are not adding any duration, just moving away and immediately returning to your dog to reward successful stays. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog one step at a time.

After duration and distance have been taught to a high standard where you dog is successful 9 times out of 10 you are ready to introduce distractions. 

Building up the level of distractions must be done gently to ensure your dog succeeds far more than the fail. Changing the environment in which you practice is the first distraction you can add, both duration and distance should be re-built slowly. Once your dog can stay in a variety of environments, even if only for a short period of time you can try something different. Anytime you change environment you will need to lower your criteria in order for your dog to accomplish what you have asked, i.e. if your dog can stay for 10 seconds at home aim for 4 seconds on a walk or if you can get 4 steps away at home aim for 1 on a walk.  

After many sessions of practicing (and being successful) with each of these key areas you can begin combining them, firstly duration and distance. Begin by taking 1 step away and return to your dog after 1 second, rewarding them if they stayed. Then move 1 step away for 2 seconds, 1 step away for 3 seconds and so on.

 

If at any point during these exercises your dog move, breaking the stay calmly put them back into position and start again. You may need to lower your criteria if they consistently make mistakes. As with all training your aim is for them to succeed, every time your dog breaks their stay it will undo some of the good work you have been doing.