How to Teach A Puppy to Stay

Sad puppy
MythicSeabass/Flickr CC 2.0

Learn how to teach a puppy to stay to prevent them from becoming a door-dasher, injuring others, or hurting themselves. Some puppies think they’re always on the wrong side of a door, and try to dash out any time it opens.

It’s also potentially dangerous for the pet when they escape the house when visitors arrive, like when Halloween trick-or-treaters arrive or folks come to visit for the holidays. It’s also scary and dangerous for people who become startled or knocked down when puppies jump up on them. Puppies don’t have to be big to bowl you off your feet, especially if stairs or ice and snow are involved.

Dealing with door-dashing pups is particularly frustrating for owners. Even when the fur-kid understands that a particular location, such as the doorway, is forbidden, they may avoid the place when you’re looking, but attempting to escape as soon as visitors arrive and the door cracks a whisker-width open.

What can you do? Recognize you will not stop a pup’s urge to see on the other side of the door or beat you outside. You cannot change instinct, but you can modify some of these irksome behaviors.

How to Teach a Puppy to Stay

The command “stay” more often is used in obedience training and means “don’t move from this position.” In other words, once the puppy sits, stands, or lies down and is told to “stay”, the pup is not to change position until released. That can be a difficult lesson, especially for a youngster to learn. It’s a vital command to learn for dogs that will compete in various sports or trials.

For pet dogs, I like the “wait” command for everyday polite behavior around the house. The “wait” command can save your puppy’s life. For instance, if your gate is left open, telling them to “wait” can keep your puppy from chasing a stray cat into the street.

While “stay” freezes all doggy action, a “wait” simply stops forward movement. A “wait” is perfect for stopping door-dashing dogs. As the puppy approaches the door you tell them to “wait” so that they pause. That lets you go out first, or allows guests to enter. The “wait” still lets them stand, sit, or even back up, as long as they do not cross that invisible boundary.

You can also use the “wait” command to stop your puppy from leaping forward in a rush to reach the dinner bowl so they must “wait” politely until you place it on the floor. Then you give them permission to come forward and eat.

7 Steps to Train Puppies to Wait

An effective and quick way to teach your puppy “wait” is to use the door as a training tool. You won’t need any sort of reward, either. Getting to go through the door rewards the puppy better than any treat or toy. Here’s how it works.

  1. Walk to the door as usual. When your puppy comes along, tell them “wait.”
  2. Place your hand on the doorknob. The pup likely will dance around seeking to get between your legs to the door as you open the door but just a crack.
  3. When they start to push ahead of you to go through, say “WHOOPS!” (or “YOU BLEW IT”) and shut the door.
  4. Just wait a moment. When they finally make eye contact, again tell them “wait” and reach for the door. When they move forward, pull your hand away once again and say "WHOOPS!"
  5. Once again, wait until they're calm and looks at you. Reach for the door. If they remain calm, begin to open it and continue as long as they wait and doesn’t move forward. It may take many repeats before your puppy makes the connection. Eventually, they’ll realize the door only opens if they remain still.
  6. Reward them for a short three to five-second “wait” by giving her a release command—“okay!” in a happy voice, and throw open the door so they can sprint outside. Remember to choose your commands with care and use the same words each time so the consistency helps them learn what “wait” and "WHOOPS" mean.
  1. When a puppy consistently waits for five seconds when asked, you’ll know that they at least understand what you want. At that point, practice extending the amount of time they wait to ten seconds, fifteen, thirty seconds and so on. They should eventually be able to contain their exuberance and wait, even when the door remains open, until you give them the happy release word.

Practice at a variety of doors in the house so that they understand the command applies no matter where it’s given. Baby gates, car doors, front and back doors, gates in the outdoor fence, and just the ringing of a doorbell can all be used to train consistency to ensure your puppy grows up to be well behaved and safe.