Training your Dog to Stay
Training your dog to stay allows him to remain in a certain position until you release him. This can turn helpful in a variety of scenarios.
Let's say you have guests over that are not very fond of having their outfits soiled by paw prints or that you need to clean up a spill on the carpet without having Rover in your way. In both of these scenarios, a stay command would perfectly fit the purpose.
Modern animal training these days is for the most part based on the rewarding world of positive reinforcement. Gone are the days of compulsion training involving alpha rolls, leash jerks and harsh collar corrections. Scientific research demonstrates that animals learn better and faster when they are rewarded for good behaviors. Rewards can involve food, toys or praise.
We will now take a look at how training your dog to stay using reward-based methods can benefit both you and your pet.
Training Your Dog to Stay Using a Clicker
A clicker is simply a noise-making device used to "mark" desired behaviors. Because the noise of a clicker is always followed by a treat or praise, dogs quickly learn that the clicking sound brings a reward.
In technical terms, a dog clicker is a "conditioned reinforcer". The clicking noise itself is pretty insignificant and irrelevant to a dog initially, but if a click is always followed by a treat, the dog starts pairing the two together.
In dog clicker training, however, at some point progress must be made so the dog understands that only certain behaviors will cause the click to take place. Fail to do so, and you will soon transform into a treat dispensing machine!
Therefore, once your puppy understands that the clicker brings rewards, start becoming selective in what behaviors you want or don't want. The wanted behaviors are immediately clicked, while the unwanted ones are ignored.
As opportunistic beings, dogs will quickly learn to increase the behaviors that are reinforced and extinguish those that are not.
The clicker, therefore, becomes a way to inform dogs that certain behaviors are rewarded while others are not.
When teaching your dog to stay, you want to click only after he holds a position for some time. Some dogs prone to hyperactivity may have a hard time learning to stay still even for a brief period of time; in these cases, take baby steps and be patient.
Following are some steps for training your dog to stay from a sitting position. Before you attempt this exercise, make sure he is already familiar with the sit command. If he is not there yet, check this training your dog to sit tutorial.
- Select a quiet area of your home such as a living room or other indoor area away from distractions.
- Ask your dog to sit but do not reward him upon sitting
- Count 2 seconds
- Click your clicker
- Deliver the treat
Adding Distance, Duration and Distractions
These are the 3 D's of dog training that will help make the Stay more reliable. Once these 3 elements are added, you will have the perfect recipe for an almost bomb-proof Stay.
Training your dog to stay within four walls at home in a distraction-free area can ultimately be fairly easy to accomplish, but when all the bells and whistles of the real world come into the picture, that's when things may become difficult.
Following is a guide on how to add these 3 essential elements when training your dog to stay.
How to Add Duration
Ask for a couple of brief stays (no longer than 2 seconds) and then start adding duration as you progress. Start adding 1 or 2 seconds to every repetition. If your puppy breaks the stay, it may be too difficult for him and you may have to ask for briefer stays and work from there.
Once he is capable of staying for five seconds, introduce a release command. A release command is a way to tell the puppy the exercise is over. Many like to use "done!", "OK" or "that'll do", a favorite among some trainers.
Once your puppy is capable of staying for about 10 seconds, you may add the cue "Stay". Some find it effective to keep an open hand in a stop-like gesture after pronouncing "Stay".
How to Add Distance
Once your pet is capable of following the Stay for about 30 seconds, you can start adding distance.
With your puppy in a sitting position, start by positioning yourself in front of him and take one step backward. Then come back to click, treat and release him. Build up on distance gradually.
If you like challenges, you can also try to let him Stay while you get out of his sight. You can also play hide-and-seek by asking a Stay, hiding and then releasing your dog to come and look for you by saying "ok, now come and find me"!
How to Add Distractions
Distractions are the last element to be added.
You will therefore ask for stays in increasingly distracting environments. This may cause the training to regress a bit, but this is normal. If your dog breaks the Stay, give a negative marker such as "eh-eh!" so that he knows that he made a mistake and will not get rewarded for it. Then ask him to resume the starting position and ask for a briefer Stay and build on from there.
Other dogs, people, bikes, wildlife can be quite significant distractions. Some trainers like to toss a ball near the dog to further "proof" the stay. A busy parking lot, a park, or a local pet store may be excellent opportunities for training under distractions. Make sure though to go slowly and gradually.
Benefits of Teaching the Stay Command
There are many benefits deriving from training your dog to stay. The Stay command would come in handy in the following situations:
- When you need to vacuum your carpet or clean a spill on the floor
- When guests are coming over and they are not fond of dogs
- When the pizza-delivery guy comes over and you need to pay
- When you open the door or gate of your property
As seen, the stay command can be helpful in many different scenarios. Training your dog to stay is ultimately a great way to teach good manners and to keep Rover out of trouble when the need arises.
Here is a brief video that provides additional information on teaching your puppy Sit and Stay commands...
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Want to learn more?
If you need help with teaching your puppy various obedience commands, including Stay, or just trying to understand canine behavior, I highly recommend this behavior and obedience training guide.
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