Training your dog to stay on command is more than just a trick: it is one of the core behaviors every dog needs to learn. It's useful for any situation where you need your dog not to move. It could be because they're on the other side of a busy road; it could be because you dropped a sandwich on the floor and you don't want them stealing it; it could be to stop them from chasing a squirrel. Or, it could just be to help calm them down and bring their focus back to you. Whatever the case, it is a universally useful command.
"Stay" is the first command many dogs learn after sit, but it is much more challenging, in part because, while "sit" tells your dog to do something, "stay" tells him not to do something. It is still a core command, however, and even the most novice of dog trainers can teach it successfully. You should be sure your dog is already familiar with the sit command before attempting to teach him to stay.
Why The Stay Command Is So Important
The stay command can be a lifesaver. There are a lot of dangers that dogs will haplessly encounter. A dog, not understanding traffic rules, may step into a road; not knowing that cooked chicken bones can damage their insides, they may eat an entire chicken carcass.
If, however, you can freeze your dog in their tracks with a single spoken command, you can keep them in place, where they're safe.
The stay command is useful in everyday situations, as well. Whether you're moving a piece of furniture, keeping your dog out of the dining room, or introducing a new cat to your home, there are plenty of day-to-day situations where the stay command proves indispensable.
The Basics of Teaching a Dog
Teaching is never an easy job: ask any school teacher. It is especially difficult when training animals, as they don't even speak the same language as you.
Fortunately, dogs are better at reading human emotions and intentions than any other animal on the planet; this is why dogs are such popular emotional support animals. Dogs learn in different ways than people, but once you figure out the differences, your dog will be quick to learn.
Dogs learn commands through repetition. The goal of the teaching process is to repeat the same process, again and again, until the dog both learns what you want and is willing to do it. The best way to approach this goal is using food.
The Teaching Process
Step One: Go somewhere calm. Eventually, you'll want to try the stay command in distracting situations, but it is best to start off somewhere nice and quiet.
Step Two: Get some dog treats; small pieces work best, as you may be going through a lot of them.
Step Three: Command your dog to sit.
Step Four: Hold the treat up in your hand so that your dog notices it. If they stand up as soon as a treat comes out, put the treat in your pocket and make them sit again. Say the word "Stay!" in an assertive, but non-aggressive, voice.
This step forms the basis of the strategy: every time your dog stands up or moves without your say-so, you will return them to their original sitting position. Considerable patience will be required, both of you and the dog.
Step Five: Back away from your dog at a slow walk. Maintain eye contact, and keep holding out the treat. Continue to stay "Stay!" as you do. Your goal is to get several feet away without your dog moving; 10 feet would be ideal, but if you are training indoors, you may have to improvise.
Step Six: Try to make it to 10 feet before calling your dog over to you and rewarding them with a treat. Your dog will probably move towards to you and try to get the treat, but you must patiently return him to the original spot, make him sit again, and start over. You may have to do this many times to get it to stick.
Dogs are often said to be uncontrollable when it comes to food. But when properly taught the stay command, you can place a piece of filet mignon in front of your dog, who won't budge without your say-so. More than a trick, the stay command is one of the best tools there are for controlling your dog's behavior.