Brandon McMillan's Canine Minded | How to Teach Your Dog to “Stay”…
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How to Teach Your Dog to “Stay”…

How to Teach Your Dog to “Stay”…

Of all my “7 Common Commands” one of the most important I try and put overtime into is the “Stay” command. It can be lifesaver in the right situations. I’ve had countless testimonials from my clients over the years about how the stay command possibly saved their dog’s life because of when they needed it most. Usually it’s their dog in the front yard and it begins to dart towards the street. The stay command kept them at the curb, obeying the command. Moments like this have made me smile knowing that my training not only is working but is also saving lives. But what is the best way to teach a stay? There is several ways that I like and constantly use which are all very effective but all depends on the dog which way they learn the best. The technique I’ll go over today is not only one of the more simple for the average dog owner to grasp but one of my favorites because of the distinctive style it takes to train it. I call it ” The Cornered Stay.” Now I can’t be sure I’m the first to ever execute this technique because I’ve never really researched it but what I can tell you is I made it up myself from years of experimenting with animal training. After you teach this technique to your dog the days of worrying if they’ll bolt across the street will be a thing of the past. Let’s train that little ball of fur to finally freeze when told to do so once and for all…

The only tools you’ll need for this technique will be a regular 6 foot leash, a bag of treats they like and an ideal location to train. The location is the key to training this. We’re gonna need an enclosed yard, enclosed empty parking lot or some larger area with a 90 degree angled corner somewhere in there. A backyard with a fence is ideal because it offers a large enclosed area with the fence hitting 90 degree angles in the corners. Don’t worry it’ll all make sense soon. Just make sure the location has these elements and all will be ok. Ok now we’re geared up with a place to train so let’s go ahead and get started…

Step 1: With their leash clipped on and your treats in your bait bag all ready for action we’re gonna go ahead and place your dog in the corner in a sit position with their butt scooted up against the corner. If their butt is a few feet away from the corner go ahead and physically place them as close to that corner as you can. This is vital. From only 1 foot away from them you’re going to use one hand to signal a “Stay” signal while you simultaneously say the command “Stay.” I want you to tell them “Stay” not ask them. In other words make it come out firm and assertive with a flat monotone sound to it, not a high pitched yippy sound. We’re only gonna hold them there for 1 second and 1 second only. If they don’t budge we quickly pet, praise and reward with a treat. If they budge, quickly correct on the leash so they sit again and repeat till they don’t move for just 1 second. Next we’re gonna back off 1 more foot effectively making your distance 2 feet away from them now. Now we repeat the process as above. Signaling a stay with our hand while staying stay but this time we’re gonna hold them for 2 seconds. If they don’t budge for that 2 seconds we pet, praise and reward. If they budge we once again correct on leash so they sit and repeat the process till they stay for 2 seconds. Ok I’m gonna quickly point out something before we continue because the next small step we take can be disastrous of not executed correctly. Notice how they’re in that corner and have very little options to run away? That’s the key to this entire process. We’ve eliminated their options of directions to run. However, the next foot we back off we’re opening 2 gaps on either side of us just big enough for them to slip through. Keep this in mind as we repeat the steps. We’re gonna add a slight change this time. So once again we give a stay signal while saying stay but this time I want both of your hands a little lower ready for them to bolt through one of those gaps. If they stay for 3 seconds we pet, praise and reward. If they budge we quickly use our hand to block that gap while saying a firm “Stay.” Don’t be afraid to stiffen the end of your hand up to make all 4 fingers stiff and poke them in the chest if they’re making a run for it. Technically you just have to hold your hand out with stiffened fingers and allow them to run into it. Once they feel this they won’t wanna challenge it again because they realized there’s a physical block that’ll engage if they don’t listen. Kinda like a guard gate going down in a parking lot. So we don’t move on till they’ve mastered 3 feet for 3 seconds. As we move on we repeat the steps. Now we’re at 4 feet for 4 seconds. Rewarding when they don’t move and correcting when they do. Making sure to use your hands like a goalie to block them if needed and only moving on when they’ve mastered that distance with that time. Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. For the first session I never recommend going further than 6 feet for 6 seconds. That’s more than enough for a dog to learn in a short time. So we’re gonna end it on a successful stay and pick it up again tomorrow…

As we pick up where we left off we’re gonna do a quick refresher on what we covered in our first session. ONLY IF they’re successfully stay every time when asked are we ready to take it to the next level. In theory they should be staying at 10 feet for 10 seconds with ease in the corner before moving on to this next step. It’s very important they have this step down before advancing so if it takes a few days to get there then take a few days to get there. Ok let’s take it to the next step. This time we’re not gonna place them in the corner, but against a wall with plenty of space on both sides. I don’t want them anywhere near a corner this time. I want them just against a wall preferably with at least 5 feet on each side. From there we’re gonna pick up where we left off, placing their butt against the wall, signaling a stay command while saying the stay command. Once again we’re gonna start off at 1 foot for 1 second. Moving on only when they’re ready. And again we’re going to repeat what we did above. Say stay while giving a stay hand signal and we’re once again using our hands like a goalie would. Preventing them from darting left or right. Most dogs won’t challenge the hands out when they see them. For those that do challenge we once again poke them back with our fingers essentially stopping them in their place. We repeat the same pattern as above as well. 2 feet for 2 seconds. 3 feet for 3 seconds and so on. After 4 feet we’re gonna have to heavily rely on our voice to stop them as our hands will no longer be in reach to stop them. However, I do find a good foot stomp is also a great way to stop them in their tracks because it quickly startles them for just that split second and snaps them back into reality, reminding them of what they were doing. This is why I stress the importance of not moving on till you know they’re ready. I’d rather spend a little more time at close range knowing they’re boing properly conditioned instead of moving on too quickly where they’re gonna constantly blow it. So now we’ve mastered them against the wall it’s time for the final step.

Now let’s pull them away from that wall into the middle of the area. Now their options are unlimited because we’ve pulled them away from all barriers. This is where we find out if they truly understand the concept of the stay. So once again we’re gonna repeat the steps. 1 foot for 1 second. 2 feet for 2 seconds and so on and so forth, moving on only when they successfully obey. Making sure to use that foot stomp if necessary. By now all the conditioning has paid off and they’re staying when asked. If they’re not staying when you ask them that means they weren’t ready to move on so simply place them back in the corner and repeat till they’ve got it. You’ve now trained one of the most important commands on your dog.

As always the training is in the details and I have a lot to point out here. First of all I wanna give you a quick rundown of exactly what we covered here so you can answer your own questions if needed. Let’s talk about placing them into a corner. All we’ve done is cut off their options of directions to run. Think about an octagon as their options of directions they can go of they were standing in the middle of an open field. They have 8 directions to run at that point. Now place them against a wall and we’ve taken away 3 directions giving them 5 directions to still run. Now place them in the corner and we’ve taken away 5 directions giving them only 3 directions to run now. Once you stand in front of them you’ve eliminated yet another direction. Holding your hands out now takes away their final 2 directions leaving them with no options. Draw an octagon on a piece of paper and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. This is why I call it “The Cornered Stay.” We’re essentially emiminating directions for them to run starting it off in a corner and opening up a little section at a time only when they’re ready. Also it’s a good idea to teach this when they’re tired because they’ll condition much faster and lessen the chance of them constantly running on you. After a walk, after a meal or at night is ideal. If they’re hyper with a ton of energy they’re gonna be running around like a maniac and you’ll be getting frustrated at them in turn giving them a bad taste in their mouth about the command in general. The better time they have while learning this the more they’ll wanna do it in the future. Also the finger poke needs to be done correctly if needed. I don’t want you slamming your fingers into their chest, but I want them to simply run into your fingers. Once they do this once they’re likely not to do it again. Also I wanna point out where I mentioned the foot stomp. This is an ideal way to stop them in their tracks if they decide to move when you’re at a further distance from them. This gets their attention just for a split second so you can get their mind back on you. Highly advise you use this when training at a distance. Now I know I said it time and again throughout this entire blog but I’m gonna go ahead and say it again so you’ll wanna choke me…DO NOT MOVE ON TILL THEY’RE READY!!! I can’t stress this enough. This is the main reason people get frustrated and eventually fail and this technique because they saw really quick progress in the first few minutes so they figured they could just skip a few feet and go for gold. This is why I mentioned above to take a few days to train this. Very few dogs could ever get to the final step in one day so take a few days and do it right. We take it slow and steady. Period.

Ok I think I made myself clear so I’ll stop reiterating the point to take it slow. Ah what the hell I’ll say it one more time…TAKE IT SLOOOooooow!!! Try it out on your dog and let me know how it goes. Ruff.

– Brandon

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