Dog training can be fun and successful for you and your pet, but some behaviors and commands seem to elude amateur trainers.
The “stay” command is one of those elusive skills that many dogs struggle to master – in no small part because their masters may struggle to teach the concept effectively. But, because this command is so important for your pet to master, we need to get to the root of the problem and figure out how to overcome it.
Why Is “Stay” an Important Aspect of Dog Training?
The first commands introduced in dog training are usually “sit” and “down” (as in lie down). These are great starting places because they are easy for your pet to master and they help establish the ground rules of obedience.
Unfortunately, without the addition of “stay,” both “sit” and “down” are little more than cute tricks to show your friends and family or a simple way to make your pet earn his treats.
Add the stay command and you open up a world of possibilities that benefits you and keeps your pet safe. You will inevitably encounter situations where your dog must remain in place to protect his safety, or where he must exercise impulse control.
Why Is Training Your Dog to “Stay” So Challenging?
If you think about the steps involved in executing the “sit” command, it’s relatively basic. Your dog drops his rump to the ground and a voila! Mission accomplished, treats or praise (or both) earned.
To teach “stay,” however, your pet must first perform a “sit” or “down.” And then he must hold that position, no matter what, until you release him. This sounds simple enough but it’s what happens in between that it so hard to train.
The challenge is how you teach your dog not to move, not to follow you and not to react to any stimulus other than your command – a cat running directly across his path or another family member with treats in hand, for example.
Dog Training Tips for Complex Skills
Although every dog trainer has their own approach to teaching this command, the secret is to go slowly and focus on small victories. If you’re working in a contained area (e.g., your fenced yard), you don’t need a leash. If you’re in the open, keep your pet leashed for safety.
After putting your pet into a “sit” or “down” position, issue the “stay” command but don’t move. If he stays put for just a second or two, give him the release command – “free,” “okay” or whatever you choose – then reward him with a treat and effusive praise.
Repeat this process a few times, attempting to lengthen the time before release. Next, try taking a single step away. Gradually, you can increase the time and distance and, once he becomes comfortable, add in distractions.
Eventually, if your efforts are successful, your pet will remain in position under virtually any circumstances.
For more help with teaching your dog complex commands and other obedience-based behaviors, contact Innovative K9 Academy in Salt Lake City. We offer a variety of dog and puppy training options, including group classes, boot camps and one-on-one sessions. Our experienced professional team can help you with even the most challenging dog training tasks.