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The Three Steps of Stay

One of the first things that you’ll want to teach your dog is how to stay. When taught properly, dogs love to stay. This is because the overall process is broken down into steps and their compensation for correct responses is small food rewards. Let’s dive in!

The first thing you’ll want to work on is stay with Distractions. We like to use pieces of food for this. Small pieces of food can be quite tempting and can also be used as a reward. We start off by dangling food about a foot away from the dog’s face for 1 second. After 5 successful reps we move up to a 3 second dangle. (If they attempt to get it we move the treat away, reset them and repeat!) Once they can stay for a 1 second and 3 second dangle, we start make it harder by placing the food on the floor.

From there we move on to the “walk around” stay. This is where the dog has to stay put while we walk in a complete circle around them. To help them succeed we break this down into steps. While facing the dog, take a step to your right, return and reward. (If they stay.) Repeat until you get 5 in a row successfully and then you’ll be ready to add a second step. Continue until you can make it to 3 steps successfully. Once there, you’ll be ready to attempt an entire walk around. Some dogs will nail this easily while others will be very tempted to follow. And many dogs will struggle with the part where you’re actually going behind them. Before long though you’ll be able to walk circles around them each way and they’ll patiently wait.

The walk around stay sets them up to easily succeed with the walk-away stay. This is the second step, which is Distance. Ask your dog to stay and back away about 6 feet. Return and reward if they stay. Once you can do this 5 times in a row, you’re ready to walk all the way across the room. (Approximately 20 feet.) Once this is successful you’ll want to start practicing while you turn your back and walk away.

The final step is Duration. This means staying put for actual periods of time. When we teach this we’re rewarding very short increments to start and randomizing the rewards to keep the dog guessing. From there we’re gradually increasing the time between rewards.

Once you’ve taught these steps in your home, bring it to different environments and practice there. When you’re in new environments, you’ll see your dog notice different distractions. Reward them for noticing those things and holding the stay.

Lastly, be sure to “position feed.” This means feed your dog in the position you want them in. This will really help to communicate that staying is the best choice. The side effect that you’ll notice to is your dog starting to settle. The settle response is one of the most useful parts about stay.

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