Teaching a puppy to stay is one of the most important things that you, as a responsible pet owner, can do to prevent them from injury and teach them to be a good canine citizen.
It is dangerous for the pet when they do not have the self-control required to not dash out of a door every time it opens, or chase after a cat or other animal across the street. It’s also scary and dangerous for people who become startled or knocked down when puppies jump up on them or dash toward them. Puppies don’t have to be big to knock you off your feet, especially if stairs or ice and snow are involved.
What can you do? Teaching your dog a solid and consistent stay command with a "release cue" is critical to improving your dog's impulse control in general. Follow these steps to help build a foundation of keeping your dog's focus on you and not the squirrel across the street.
How to Teach a Puppy to Stay
First we need to decide what an acceptable stay is for our goals. Is your dog in obedience and can't move a muscle? Or are we just wanting them to not rush the door or food bowl? Knowing your goal is critical to getting good results. For the sake of this article we will focus on just getting our dogs to not rush out the door.
1) Define the area that you want your dog to stay in during the command. Is this a mat? or just next to you?
2) Pick the word that everyone in the house will use to indicate the dog should stay. "Stay" is a great place to start, but just make sure the entire household knows which word you choose. This will make it easier for the dog to learn.
3) Determine the reward you are going to use. People don't work for free, and neither should dogs. You are asking them to do something they may not really want to do, so a reward is critical to success. Ask your veterinarian about what is best to use as treats. Avoid super high-fat treats or large treats. Most dogs will get the message with just a small amount of something tasty.
4) Check the clock. Most training sessions in the beginning should not be longer than a few minutes. Gradually, as your dog develops a longer attention span this can increase, but in the beginning, start small.
5) Don't tell your dog to stay and then immediately back all the way across the room. That won't work. Start close to your dog. Say "stay." As long as the dog does not move toward you, that is a win, and the dog is rewarded. Do this several times for your first session of training. Your dog is just learning the word and the fact that it is associated with something good.
6) Next, say "stay," back a small step away and toss your pup a treat. As long as they are staying they get treats. These treats should be good ones. You want to reinforce that the stay is the good thing, not the come when called. This way, after future training, they will happily stay in their area because they know the best stuff happens there.
7) Slowly space out the amount of time that you ask your dog to stay before it gets a treat. You do not want your dog to think they will constantly get treats. At first, you can give them pretty regularly. Then, for the next session, maybe hold a few seconds before giving them.
8) Once your dog has a few seconds between treats we can start to put some more distance between us and them. By now they are confident that you are going to give them a treat at some point so they will hopefully stay there. Start slow, and take five steps away at first.
9) Once you add distance, you may need to go back to treating more frequently to get them to relax. Then go back to longer amounts of time between treats and so on.
10) Gradually, over your sessions you will be able to get your dog to stay until "released". Your release cue can be "come" or "here" or anything you'd like. Again, just keep it consistent.
Keep in mind that some dogs are not food motivated and may be more motivated by just a kind word or a bounce of their favorite ball. It takes a bit more creativity to hold these pups' focus, but the concepts are the same.
Teaching your dog to stay will not only provide great mental stimulation for your dog, it is an easy way to build a positive trusting relationship between you and your pup. It is also a good foundation command to build on when attempting to develop impulse control in your dog. This will go a long way to keeping him safe and pleasant to be around.