Many times we are guilty of not giving credit where or when credit is due in regards to proper timing, rewarding or acknowledging of the behavior we want in our puppies or dogs. In other words when we try to “speak dog,” we stutter, mutter, and generally screw up clear communication with our dogs and pups.
If you want better results and a firmer hold on the “Stay” command from your puppy or dog please read and heed this post. It does not have to be that complicated. Here it is in four easy steps…
1. Have incredible patience. Think of patience as a muscle you get to exercise and strengthen while you work with your dog on the “stay.” Under the patience umbrella I would also remember to acknowledge, slightly, the fact that the dog has first mastered the “sit” or “down” commands and to let them know we are pleased with that. Please no huge praise or foolish treats at this point because we want the dog to remain stationary. Feel free to pet or praise calmly or express gratitude or happiness about the initial sit or down. Your dog will sense it. This may not be important to you but, believe me, so many humans skip this simple part and then end up blowing the “stay” part. Don’t worry if your pup fails the first few stay commands as they have to fail in order to learn what stay really means!
2. Use hand signals. In my experience I have learned dogs actually prefer vision over hearing. If we were able to sit them down (like we can with school children) and administer one of those tests that determine whether a person is a visual learner or a more auditory learner or a hands-on, kinesthetic learner we would easily discover our dogs would always prefer touch and feeling before vision and hearing. Since all pups are born blind and deaf they much prefer to learn things through touch and social spacing (kinesthetic all the way!). So feeling/touch trumps vision but vision trumps hearing. Use hand signals and body language for the clearest possible communication with your dog. Keep the signals easy and smooth and tell your whole family about them.
3. No cheating. And have a correction/fail sound. After commanding, “Stay” in a very clear and low voice attempt to back away. I didn’t say loud voice, folks, I said low. After telling your dog or puppy to stay (with your stay hand signal too) proceed to stand up first and then back away from the animal one step at a time. If the dog is just learning it don’t freak out if he fails. Remember patience. Don’t let him cheat ahead and gain ground on you. Don’t let him walk forward closer to where you are and then sit and stay. Walk the dog back to where he originally put his butt on the ground, relax yourself, have him perform the “sit” again and then repeat the whole sequence. If your pup can only last in a “stay” for two steps back or about three or four seconds that is okay. Be sure to anticipate failure (I mean get ready for the dog to start to come out of the stay!) and give some short, sharp verbal disciplinary sound. Aim for great timing and body language.
4. And here’s a Garrett Stevens special tip for really strengthening your “stay” command…Instead of calling your dog with a “come/here/heel” out of the stay walk calmly back to where your dog is already staying still and reward there! In essence reward for the stay and NOT for the come. Most folks reward for the come! Almost every single person I’ve met and worked with over the years has never added this simple and very effective technique until I show them how effective it is to really help the dog realize just exactly what we want from them. The dog just needs to learn to not move. How simple is that?! By commanding stay and then walking around, backwards and forwards, sideways and wherever else and adding in more distractions little by little then returning to your stationary dog and Rewarding them there for staying in no time your dog will start to really understand what you want and how simple “stay” can be.
Good luck and keep practicing,