Really when you think about it your sit and down commands aren't much value if your dog merely gets into those positions and then bounces back up straight away.
That's why I like to add the stay command, although some dog trainers believe it to be an unnecessary extra command. Their theory being that when they request that their dog sits or goes into the down position, the dog should stay in that position until they are told otherwise.
For those of you choose to use the stay command - read on.
Training a dog to stay can be difficult at first. In a way it goes against what your dog is used to (following you around) and also his/her natural instincts (being close to their pack). With this in mind keep the stay command very simple to begin with and build upon your dogs successes slowly.
Once you have trained your dog to hold a reliable stay in any situation you will find it handy on many occasions. It's a great behavior to request when visitors come to your home, if you need to duck inside a shop or if you have a dog who likes to bolt out the front door.
Right let's get started - it's a good idea to first train your dog to stay when he/she is calm and not all hyped up - after a walk is a good time. Your first training session should be in a familiar environment to your dog, free from any distractions and should only last for a few minutes.
Then you begin the process again from the start, this time maybe hold your praise and treat off for 3 or 4 seconds. Just take it slowly and if your dog breaks out of the stay at any time before you have given him the release command, simply say "aah-aah"! Don't give the treat, but simply start the process again.
2. The next step is to add a verbal command and hand signal to step 1. It goes like this - once again stand directly in front of your dog and place him in the position you would like him to stay in. Now as soon as he is in the desired position say "stay" and at the same time hold your hand out in front of you, with your palm facing out towards your dog's nose (like a stop sign motion).
Now after waiting a second or two praise and reward your dog for staying in this position (sit-stay or down-stay etc.). As was the case in step 1 you can now repeat this process over and over, gradually increasing the time between your "stay" command and your praise and treat. What you are doing is building an association in your dog's mind between your verbal "stay" command and the act of staying in the one spot.
3. You've now got the stay command sorted - in it's most basic form anyway.
It's now time to add some other variables and build upon it. Many trainers label this proofing stage as the three D's - Duration, Distance and Distractions. Up until now (in steps 1 and 2) you have been working in a familiar environment free from distractions and you've just been standing right in front of your dog. Let's mix it up a little, adding one new variable at a time.
Start out by issuing your "stay" command with your hand signal, now take a step backwards, pause, then step back towards your dog. If your dog has remained in his sit-stay or down-stay, praise him and give him a tasty treat. Continue to repeat this process, gradually increasing the amount of steps you take back - always remember to return back to your dog before you reward him. Keep in mind what it is you are actually rewarding him for (the stay) and if he gets up to move away he shouldn't be receiving a reward or treat.
The next challenge you can add to the stay command is to move your training session to a different location, possibly somewhere with a few distractions such as other people or animals. Remember take it slowly and only add one new variable at a time. Another good idea is to practice your stays anytime throughout the day. For example make your dog "stay" when you go out to collect the mail or "stay" when you are preparing his dinner.
A game you can play with your dog to reinforce the "stay" command is hide and seek. This game is heaps of fun and all you do is place your dog in a down-stay then run off and hide. When you are ready, sing out your release command and your dog will set off to track you down.
Here's another good article which shows you how to shape a reliable stay behavior - Stay command using clicker training methods
Note: When training a dog to stay do not keep your dog in a sit-stay for more than 2 or 3 minutes. If you need your dog to stay for longer periods use the down-stay.
If you're considering training your puppy or older dog yourself at home, please consider following this complete dog training package as your guide.
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Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.