All Things Dog

The "stay" command

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Teaching your puppy the "stay" command is important to your puppy's safety, and is useful in daily activities. It is used with other commands, so it's necessary to have first trained your puppy the basic commands such as "sit" or "down." The "stay" command teaches your puppy to remain where he is until he's told by you he can move. The benefits of this command are many. For example: you are out walking your puppy and are stopped at a curb waiting for a safe time to cross the street. You ask your puppy to "sit" and he does, but he is then very quickly up again on all fours, pulling at his leash. With the "stay" command your puppy gets additional information – he understands that he is to hold his position until you tell him it's okay to move, regardless of the distractions around him. The "stay" command is also very effective at reminding your puppy that you are the one in command. This is important because to be contented and well behaved, dogs need to know who their "pack leader" is. How to train your puppy to "stay" Leash your puppy. Hold his leash and, standing in front of him, give him the "sit" command. When your puppy is sitting, give him the "stay" command. To do this give your puppy the "stay" signal and the verbal command "stay." The signal used is one most of us are already familiar with to mean "wait" or "stop." Raise one hand and, palm out, hold it in front of your puppy's nose. As you give your puppy this signal look at him and say "stay" in a clear voice. Holding his leash, walk backward from your puppy, still saying "stay." If he keeps his position for a few seconds return to your puppy, give him the release word you have chosen, and praise and reward his behavior. Continue this training daily for short intervals of about 10 minutes. As the training progresses, gradually build up the time your puppy remains in the "stay" position until given the release word. Don't advance too quickly. Start at 5 or 10 seconds in the sit-stay position. When he is comfortable move the time up to 30 seconds, then 1 minute and eventually 2 or 3 minutes. Only increase the time when your puppy is comfortable holding the current sit-stay time. Once your dog understands the "stay" command when leashed, practice it unleashed in a safe area. The next step, once your puppy is comfortable with the sit-stay command, is to add other commands into the training sessions, such as "down-stay." Keep in mind that at first the "stay" command may be a more difficult command for your puppy to learn. In other commands he may be able to recognize a definite action he is expected to perform. For example, when he is given the "sit" command he places his backside on the ground. When he hears the "come" command he moves towards you. But the "stay" command can be used with many other commands. It is basically telling your puppy to hold whatever position he is in, rather than to perform a certain action, and your puppy may have trouble grasping this concept at first. Be patient and your puppy will gradually understand the "stay" command – and you will have a well-behaved and safe dog. Training gone wrong Training your puppy to understand the "stay" command will fail if you expect too much from him. Be reasonable. Don't expect your puppy to hold the "stay" command for long periods of time. If you give him the command and then leave him unattended don't expect him to keep his position. Remember that he is a puppy. Puppies get confused about what behavior is expected from them when their owners aren't consistent. For example: you're out walking your puppy and you run into someone you know. You stop to talk to them and give your puppy the "sit-stay" command. You get involved in your conversation and your puppy doesn't stay seated but, because your attention has shifted to your conversation, you don't correct your puppy. This sends him mixed messages – training can only work when it is consistent. As with all training, food rewards and praise are important to communicate to your puppy that he has pleased you. However, as the training progresses, food rewards should be used less frequently – maybe every third time. Verbal praise should be used regularly, but if food rewards are used constantly your puppy may eventually refuse to obey the command unless a food reward is given.

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