Take it slow
Every dog is different and if your dog is struggling make it nice and easy. Stay can mean they are still even for a few seconds while you lean away from them, just the idea that you’re going to move is enough. Reward that and then build up slowly.
When your back is turned
Sometimes you’ll get to a place where you have a perfect stay when your dog knows you are watching them, but as soon as you aren’t looking it seems like they forget how to do it! Dogs rely a lot on small body language signals, so it is easy for them to miss your vocal cue. Make sure you combat this by including a lack of eye contact early on, for example, instead of walking away, just turn your back.
Sit, lie or stand?
It is helpful to decide on a position you want your dog to “stay” in. Most people choose a sit, although lying down is done too, and less commonly a stand. Sit and lie, means that a dog is less prepared to move and also gives you something to reward early on. Just make sure you stay consistent with what you are asking for.
A stay is when we ask a dog to remain still. Some people differentiate between a stay where the dog doesn’t move until the owner has to come right back to them and others will release at any point. For this guide we will go over the steps to teach the stay behaviour and a release cue, and it is up to you how exactly you want to use the release. Often people will teach both and use different words for each.
Step 1 – Choose your cue!
You need to chose both a stay cue and a release cue. Easy options are “stay” or “wait” and “finish” or “off you go”.
Get your dog into their starting position – usually a sit.
Pair your cue with the action. So get your dogs attention and with them in front of you say your cue word and immediately reward.
Repeat this a few times so they really pair the two.
Say your cue word and pause slightly before rewarding, only reward if your dog doesn’t move, if they do move then don’t reward, just reset and then try again.
Again, repeat this a few times until you are sure they won’t move.
Increase the time between your cue and the reward until you can see that your dog is waiting patiently for the reward.
Now it is time to start adding distance, say your cue word and then move very slightly away, just stepping with one foot. As we are working on distance make it easier with less time so move back to the starting position quickly and then reward.
If this is too much and your dog moves just reset, practice a few easier steps, then try again, this time only moving your body slightly away without moving your feet.
Repeat and slowly add more distance until you can confidently walk away from your dog and return to them without them moving.
Practice in different spaces with more distractions, making sure your dog is safe by training in a secure space or on a long line if necessary.
Start to practice out on walks, just doing a stay once or twice before continuing.