Training A Dog To Stay

An Optional Obedience Training Command


If you’re thorough about the “sit” and “down” commands, you might find it unnecessary to teach the “stay” command. Some trainers even believe that training your dog to stay will confuse a dog – that the dog might think, if you don’t say “stay,” then they don’t have to.

Regardless, if you plan on training a dog to stay, then this article has you covered.

It’s my opinion that the “stay” command is useful. This is because I use “sit” and “down” commands as a way to guide my dogs’ brains in unfamiliar situations. For example, if my dog is thinking about chasing a neighborhood cat and glancing around for permission, I’ll say “down!” They understand what I’m really saying is “I know what you were thinking, and the answer is no.”

But, training a dog to stay is optional. If you plan to do it, here’s how.

Tips and Rules for the Trainer: Teaching a Dog to Stay

  • The way I’m presenting these obedience training instructions, “stay” is the first command that challenges your dog’s instincts. Keep that in mind and be even more patient than usual in waiting for results.
  • Be even more aware of distractions. If you’ve been doing your training up til now in the back yard, consider moving this one inside.
  • When training a dog to stay, use a variety of sitting and laying positions so that the exact meaning of the “stay” command is clear.
  • Training a dog to stay works much better after exercise, so that it’s easier for the dog to relax.
  • Start with short periods of only a minute or two, and work up the duration gradually.
  • Remember that the best punishment for failure is simply to withhold the reward and act, for a moment, as if your dog isn’t in the room. Don’t show frustration or disappointment.
  • If your dog is having trouble with this command, use “down” rather than “sit.” It lowers his energy level, making it easier for him to obey.


The Method: Training A Dog To Stay

1. Issue the sit or down command, and simply wait a few seconds.
2. Praise your dog after that delay and give a treat.
3. If your dog won’t stay, use a word like “no” and then look away for just a moment.


Your dog is already used to the habit that, once you reward and praise him, the practice is over, so expect your dog to release himself from the command at that point. This is useful to you, because it’s the staying put you’re working on.

4. Keep doing repetitions. Start at a mere 1-2 seconds and build up to 3-4 seconds.
5. Once this is working well, introduce the verbal command. Once your dog is in the sitting or laying position, say “stay,” and then repeat the other steps above.

After your dog is patiently waiting for you to reward him for being still, and after lots of repetition and slowly building up the time, the true training process begins. Training a dog to stay means training them to ignore all their other urges. It’s time to start throwing challenges into the mix.

6. Start out with the same steps as above, but now, after a couple seconds, step backwards. Keep facing your dog or they’ll be highly tempted to follow. If he stays, step toward him again, and then praise and reward him. Repeat this many times – you’ll see his body language adjust as he gets used to this.
7. Next do the same thing, but step further back. Again, add lots of repetition before you add further increases of distance.
8. Sometime during these steps, is when you want to introduce the “ok” or some other “release” command. You’ll want that command in place so you can clearly tell the dog he’s done “staying.”

Training a dog to stay forces them to ignore their need to be near their leader, so do this gradually and without turning away, until you can take several paces back with good, consistent results.

9. Finally, after this is going perfectly, issue the “sit-stay” or “down-stay” commands and then leave the room for a few seconds. As before, do this with many repetitions before increasing the time or distance.
10 Once that’s a success, it’s time to start making the “stay” command a normal daily habit. Tell your dog to stay while you visit the restroom, check the mailbox, and especially at his feeding time.

That’s it! Training a dog to stay takes a lot of time, but it’s not complicated. After the above steps are done, throw in some challenges such as going outside, doing the training steps in new places, or having your dog obey new people.

Conclusion and Extra Notes: Training a Dog to Stay

There’s much more that could go into this article, but rather than re-write the book, I’ll just recommend you grab the source that taught me how to train a dog to stay. There are two resources for this obedience training step.

“Stay Command Using Clicker Training Methods” – a great article that I used to phase out treats. Clicker training replaces snacks with a pleasant sound, and I talk about it in detail in another article: Clicker training.

The other resource is the “Complete Dog Training Package,” which I can’t say enough about. Get and study that system if you want to know everything there is to know about training your dog at home.

Learn about other dog training topics, or continue with obedience training commands.

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