How to Train Your Dog to Stay

Teach Your Dog to Stay Put

Dog waiting for its owner
John Kieffer/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Does your dog know how to stay in place when asked? "Stay" is an essential basic dog command that all dogs should learn. Almost as important as coming when called, the stay cue can prevent your dog from getting involved in dangerous situations. It will also allow you to keep your dog still and calm while you take care of household chores, entertain guests, or bring your dog to public places.

A successful “stay” occurs when your dog does not move at all from the original position. When training, start with 1-2 second periods of staying and work your way up to several minutes.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: About 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day

What You Need: Dog collar, extra-long leash (15-30 feet if possible), training treats that your dog loves, a dog that already knows the cues for sit and/or down.

How to Train Your Dog to Stay

  1. Place the collar and extra-long leash on your dog.
  2. Tell her to sit or lie down. If your dog is excited or fidgety, you may have more success starting with your dog in the down position.
  3. Say “stay” in a firm, clear voice while holding one hand up, palm out (as if to motion "stop").
  4. If your dog does not move, give her a treat and praise.
  5. Release your dog from the command by saying “okay” and encouraging her to move.
  6. Instruct your dog to sit or lie down again and praise her when she complies.
  7. Say "stay" again with the hand motion while taking a step or two back.
  8. If she stays, walk towards her slowly. You may need to keep your hand signal in play.
  9. If she still stays, give her a treat and praise. If she moves, start over from step 1.
  10. Release your dog from the command by saying “okay” and encouraging her to move.
  11. Repeat this process 5-6 times, gradually taking more steps back and increasing the time period between “stay” and “okay.”
  12. Once your dog can stay for 30 seconds or more at the end of the long leash, you can gradually begin to add distractions, increase distance, and try leaving your dog's line of sight during the stay.

    Training Tips

    1. Keep training sessions short and try to end on a positive note with a successful action. If your dog cannot yet stay, then end the session with sit or something else your dog knows well.
    2. Over time, you should gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. Try to get to the end of the long leash. Remain in your dog’s sight until she understands how to stay. Then, you can try leaving the room after giving the stay command.
    3. For a bit more challenge, try starting this command in the standing position. If successful, your dog should not change positions during the stay command.
    4. Once your dog has mastered the stay command, try practicing with distractions. Get a friend to talk or squeak a toy. Have someone knock on a door or shout something in the next room. Your dog should not move at all despite the distractions.
    5. If you wish to try this outside without a leash, always be sure you are in a secure fenced-in area.
    6. Once your dog becomes an expert at staying, you no longer need to give a treat every time, only occasionally. However, rewarding with praise is always a good idea.