We were at in Braselton last Wednesday working with our Home Dog Training client and his Weimaraner named Juno. Our client had been working with Juno, but hit a brick wall on many of the obedience and focus commands. One of those commands was the “Stay” command. “I have tried everything I could read on the internet or heard from my friends. As soon as I think Juno is starting to get it, he seems to turn off and loose interest. It seems I get half way through the lesson and he just isn’t paying attention any more. What can I do to teach my dog to stay?”
We told him that our clients often have a hard time with the classic STAY exercise. They often tell us that they think their dog is “playing with them”. As soon as they think their dog is really going to stay, they get up and start to follow them.
A constant problem that many of our clients experience is trying to teach their dog too much too quickly… Don’t forget that we all learned that 1 + 1 = 2 before we started to work with calculus. That is our issue in teaching our dog to stay.
We like to break the STAY exercise down to manageable pieces that can be taught and reinforced throughout the process. It goes something like this:
- Find a quiet place you can use as your class room and have your dog on a leash.
- Command your dog to sit. If he does not do this the first time you tell him or he does not stay in a sit position with focus on you, you aren’t ready for STAY. Stop the “stay exercise” and just work on sit. SIT must be down cold before you move to STAY.
- Now that your dog is sitting and focused on you, stand in front of him, hold your hand up like a traffic cop, and tell him to “stay”. Be calm through the entire process and verbalize your command in a low volume, but firm voice.
- Your dog needs to remain in his sitting position while focused on you and, more importantly, your hand. (The traffic cop extended hand.)
- Once your dog has remained in the stay position for about ten seconds, slowly step back a few feet (be careful not to tug or pull the leash). Keep your hand up like the traffic cop while standing tall and facing your dog. If he starts to move, correct him to stay. If he gets up and moves off his place, start the process again.
- Once you reach the end of the leash, check to see that your dog is focused on you and your hand and that you are focused on him. Remain here for about fifteen seconds or so. This is to make sure that he really is focusing on you and learning this part of the command.
- Next, while facing him and with your hand up, slowly move around to your dog’s left side. Once you are directly on his left, wait a moment and reverse your process until your are directly on his right. Finally, return to standing in front of him. During this entire time, face him. Always make sure that he is focused on you. If he starts to loose focus on you, correct him. If he actually moves from his spot, start the exercise from the beginning.
- Once you are in front of him, now return to his side and praise him for completing the STAY.
You probably won’t be able to successfully do all of these steps on your first try or even the first day. You may only be able to stand in front of him the first day. It may take a week before you can back up. It may take another week before you can move around him and return. It is not about the length of time to complete the command, it is about following the process to successfully complete it.