How to teach your dog to stay

The ‘stay’ command is a great one to master, especially if you have an easily distracted or excitable pup. You may need them to keep still while the mailman delivers the post, or need them to wait outside your house with their muddy paws. 

The general rule for any training is to start in a quiet, familiar environment to avoid distractions. Then choose a comfortable starting position for your dog - perhaps “sit” or “lie down”. Pick a word for the command - “stay”, “wait” or anything you like - and remain consistent with that word, especially if there’s more than one person involved in the training. 

Get your dog in the starting position you have chosen and say your chosen word (we’ll use “stay”). Immediately reward them for getting into this position with lots of praise and a treat. Accompany the command with a hand signal so they have a visual cue as well as a verbal one. A lot of people put a hand up, like a traffic cop telling drivers to stop. 

Keep repeating this step until you believe they’ve got the hang of it. You can make it more challenging avoiding eye contact. This will challenge their concentration and will determine whether they have completely mastered the command. 

Now it’s time to extend the duration of the stay. Try doing this in small increments and keep track of how long they’re staying so you can slowly work your way up. If your dog is getting irritable and is finding it difficult to sit still, you might be building the time up too quickly, so try not to rush the process. 

Next, extend the distance. Again, it’s best to do this in small steps. Tell them to stay and then taking a step away. If they stay, give them a treat and lots of praise. Slowly add a step each time. Remember, each dog is different, and some have a far higher attention span than others.

If you feel confident that they have properly learnt these instructions, then you can begin to add distractions and even try making them stay when you’re out of sight. Once they get it, you’ll feel a real sense of achievement.