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How to Train Your Dog to Stay in 7 Steps

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jul 30, 2020 • 4 min read

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Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Most dogs, especially when they’re younger, can learn to obey commands. Dog training can help encourage good behavior in your companion, keeping your pet and those around them safe. Commands promote structure and authority in your dog’s life and can also help establish trust.

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Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog TrainingBrandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Expert animal trainer Brandon McMillan teaches you his simple, effective training system to build trust and control with your dog.

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Why Train Your Dog to Stay?

The “stay” command is an essential behavioral technique for dog owners. It is one of the most basic commands you can teach your pet, and is a valuable tool to use during puppy training to foster obedience and discipline.

Training your dog to stay helps keep your dog safe and calm while developing impulse control. It also helps forge a trusting relationship between an owner and their pet. A dog who knows how to stay is less likely to jump on people, bolt out the front door, or go where they’re not supposed to, which, along with safety, gives owners peace of mind.

Understanding Implied vs. Cued Stay

Some dog owners prefer to teach their dogs an “implied stay,” which means if a dog is given the “sit” or “down” command, they will remain in the sit position or down position until given a release cue—the “stay” is implied.

However, other dog owners may prefer to use a stay cue, or a “cued stay,” which involves using a separate verbal or physical signal to enforce the command.

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How to Train Your Dog to Stay

You can teach your dog a variety of tricks and commands using verbal cues, hand signals, and training clickers. For the stay command, a dog should already understand the sitting position.
To learn how to train a new puppy or adult dog to stay, check out the following steps:

  1. Start off positive. Dogs are sensitive to people’s vocal tones and moods, so you will need to foster a positive environment for your companion. Make sure you have the time and patience available to train your dog successfully.
  2. Keep training sessions short. Dogs, like people, have short attention spans, and will not necessarily learn more or better if they train for a longer length of time. Multiple short daily sessions can help your dog retain what they’ve learned, while also establishing a routine. Keep a consistent regimen when training your dog to reinforce good behaviors and healthy patterns.
  3. Use your hands and voice. At the start of your dog training session, ask your dog to sit. Put your hand out, and say the word “stay” in a happy or positive tone. You want your dog to start associating the verbal cue and visual gesture with staying in place. Repeat this action a few times before moving or saying anything else, so your dog learns to associate the command with the action.
  4. Test it out. Once your dog can sit and stay in place with you in front of them, take a few steps backward for the first time to see if they remain in the stay position. In the beginning, your dog will likely get up and follow you. If this happens, use a firmer tone of voice to let them know the behavior is wrong, place them back in position, and do not reward them. If you move away from your dog and they stay, use positive reinforcement like verbal praise, training treats, or a favorite toy to reward them for their success. (However, make sure you do not move away with a treat already in your hand, as it will lure your dog out of the sit position).
  5. Establish a release word. When your dog has “stayed” for an adequate amount of time, use a release cue, and gesture to signal the command is over. You can drop your hand and say “come” to let your dog know they should come to you. The tone you use for your release word should not be the same tone that you use for rewards, as you do not want to teach your dog that they get a treat every time they come over to you.
  6. Increase the distance. During every training session, move farther away from your dog at incrementally longer amounts of time when testing their ability to stay. If your dog stays, walk over to them and give them their reward. Do not call your dog to come to you for the reward, as they will start associating the reward with getting up, rather than staying. You should also practice leaving your dog’s sight completely before giving the release word, so they do not expect to always be called out of the stay position right away.
  7. Repeat. Repeat these training sessions as necessary until your dog learns to obey the command.

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Your dream of having a dog who understands words like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and—crucially—”no” is just a MasterClass All-Access Pass away. The only things you’ll need to train up a well-behaved pup are your laptop, a big bag of treats, and our exclusive instructional videos from superstar animal trainer Brandon McMillan.

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