How to Train a Dog to Stay: A Relatable Guide for Dog Dads

Discover the essential ‘stay’ command, why it isn’t just a neat party trick, it might just save your dog’s life.

How to Train a Dog to Stay: A Relatable Guide for Dog Dads
Photo by Destiny Wiens / Unsplash

The elusive "stay" command is an essential skill for our four-legged companions, yet it can be quite a challenge to teach. As a proud dog dad, I've had my fair share of adventures while training my pup to stay.

In this relatable guide, I'll share my own experiences and tips on how to train a dog to stay, highlighting the importance of this command and answering some frequently asked questions along the way.

The Importance of the 'Stay' Command

Before we delve deeper into the training process, it's crucial to understand why teaching your dog to stay is so important. This command isn't just a neat party trick; it plays a vital role in ensuring your dog's safety and fostering a well-behaved companion.

That's why its one of 7 basic dog commands.

Safety First

One of the primary reasons the "stay" command is essential is because it helps keep your dog safe in various situations. Imagine this... your dog is about to run into traffic or approach a potentially dangerous object or animal, a well-timed "stay" command can prevent accidents and injuries.

It's like having an invisible lead, giving you control over your dog's movements even when they're not physically tethered to you.

Reinforcing Good Behaviour

Teaching your dog to stay is an excellent way to establish boundaries and promote good behaviour. A dog that can stay on command is less likely to jump on guests, steal food, or do other undesirable behaviours like humping.

As a responsible dog dad, you want your dog to be a good canine citizen, and mastering the "stay" command is a significant step in that direction.

Building Trust and Strengthening the Bond

Training your dog to stay also helps strengthen the bond between the two of you. When your dog obeys your command, it demonstrates trust in your leadership and reinforces your role as the pack leader. This trust and mutual respect can deepen your connection and make your relationship with your dog even more rewarding.

Preparing for Training

Before jumping into training, it's essential to set the stage for success.

Choosing the Right Environment

Training your dog to stay requires focus and concentration from both of you. Find a quiet, distraction-free area to hold your training sessions. Trust me, trying to teach your pup to stay in a noisy and busy dog park is like attempting to meditate at a rock concert—nearly impossible!

When I taught the stay command, I chose a room in the house and closed the door, or closed off garden (if you have one). When its one on one, you'll have undivided attention from your pup.

Understand Your Dog's Temperament

Every dog is unique, and understanding your dog's temperament will help you tailor your training approach. If your dog is easily excited, you may need to spend more time on calming exercises before diving into the "stay" command.

When Luna is super excited, I sit down next to her, getting on her level, hands flat on the ground, until she matches my level. It works everytime.

Gather Your Training Tools

Arm yourself with plenty of treats, toys, and other rewards to motivate your dog during training. A clicker is also great for reinforcing your dog's correct behaviour. Just remember, a well-stocked treat pouch is your secret weapon in this dog training adventure!

Which dog doesn't love treats?

Breaking Down the 'Stay' Command

Teaching your dog to stay involves mastering the three Ds of training: duration, distance, and distraction.

The Three Ds of Training

When I first embarked on teaching my dog to stay, I didn't realise the importance of the three Ds. I thought I could jump straight to having my pup stay across the room, what an oversight that was.

Performing the 'Stay' Command

While your dog is sitting, lying down or standing, raise your palm in front of your dog's face and clearly and succinctly say 'Stay'. Do not linger on the pronunciation, dogs can pick up on length as well. And feed your pup a treat.

Repeat the step, 'Stay', treat, 'Stay', treat.

At first we want your pup to associate getting a tasty treat when they hear the word stay. After a couple of attempts, it's time to start gradually increasing the duration of the stay. Consider intervals of 3 seconds each time, 3, 6, 9 and so on. Remember to reward if they stay put for the duration.

I'm not sure why odd numbers work, they just did for me.

Now move on to increasing the distance between you and your dog, do this by stepping back with each stay. At this point your dog is likely to fail, its natural for them to want to be right by your side. So stick to your guns and if they move, step towards them so they back up into their previous position.

Finally, introduce distractions to test your dog's ability to maintain the "stay" command in various situations. For example, switch on the TV so there's some background noise, or ask a friend/relative to be in your dog's vision. If you've done this right, your dog's focus will be on you.

Implementing a Consistent Training Routine

Consistency is key when it comes to dog training. Establishing a regular training routine will help your dog understand what's expected of them and reinforce the "stay" command more effectively.

Establish a training schedule

Set aside dedicated time each day for training sessions, preferably when your dog is alert and not too tired or hungry. Short, frequent sessions are more effective than longer, infrequent ones. Aim for 10-15 minutes of training several times a day.

Use consistent cues

Use the same verbal command and hand signal every time you ask your dog to stay. Consistency helps your dog understand what you're asking for and reinforces the desired behaviour.

Celebrating Your Dog's Success

As your dog progresses, it's essential to acknowledge their achievements and celebrate milestones along the way.

Acknowledging milestones and achievements

Be sure to praise your dog and reward them for their progress in mastering the "stay" command. After all, who doesn't love a good pat on the back (or head, in this case)?

Continuing to challenge your dog

Once your dog has mastered the basic "stay" command, consider introducing advanced variations to keep training sessions fun and engaging.

For example, try teaching your dog to stay while you walk in a circle around them or while they're balancing a treat on their nose.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few FAQs that fellow dog dads often ask:

How long will it take to train my dog to stay?

Every dog is different, so the time it takes to train your dog to stay will vary. Some dogs may learn the command in a few days, while others may take several weeks or longer. Consistency, patience, and persistence are key.

My dog doesn't seem to be getting the hang of the stay command. What should I do?

If your dog is struggling with the "stay" command, try breaking the training down into smaller steps. Focus on building up duration, distance, and distractions gradually. You may also want to consult with a professional dog trainer for additional guidance.

Can I train an older dog to stay?

Yes! It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Older dogs can learn the "stay" command just as well as younger dogs, although it may take a bit more patience and persistence.

Final thoughts

Teaching your dog to stay is a rewarding journey for both of you. By preparing for training sessions, breaking down the "stay" command, staying consistent, and celebrating your dog's achievements, you'll help your furry friend master this essential skill. Happy training, fellow dog dads!