Training your Labrador puppy to stay will give him an important life skill that will serve you both for the life of your dog. A strong 'stay' can keep your puppy from getting into trouble or moving towards danger.
'Stay' is also a trick that falls under the “Impulse Control” category, which refers to any behavior that helps your puppy realize that she can’t just be pushy and get what she wants all the time. It is a way to show her that patience can earn her a big reward in the end. This is an especially important skill for Labrador puppies, given their notorious rambunctiousness for their first 2-3 years of age.
In this guide, we will explore three different methods to train your Labrador puppy to stay. Both the “Clicker” and “Mat” method will give him the basic skills to stay. If you want to make his stay very strong and reliable, move on to the “Proofing” method for advanced skill building.
Decide on a Hand Signal
The most common hand signal for this behavior is to raise an open hand towards your dog, holding for the length of the 'stay' verbal cue. However, you can make the hand signal whatever you want it to be. By practicing both at the same time in your training sessions, eventually' the hand signal or the verbal command will work to cue the stay behavior.
Decide on a Position
If you would like your Labrador puppy to always be in the same position when he stays (sitting, lying down, standing up) then you can reinforce that by always asking for that position first before proceeding with your 'stay' training. If he breaks the position during the stay, don’t reward him. Just start over, ask for the position, and then give the 'stay' command again.
On the other hand, if you want him to stay in whatever position he is in when you give the command, then only reward stays that maintain that position, ignore those that do not, and immediately start over with a new 'stay' drill.
Release WordYou will always teach 'stay' in combination with a release word. Most professional trainers use “Okay!” but you are welcome to choose what works for you. The main thing to keep in mind is that you will never reward your dog if he breaks the stay before the release word.
This is training that more or less requires the use of food rewards because they are easy to repeat quickly without disrupting the focus of your training session. “High value” food rewards are special foods your puppy really loves--small bits of hot dog, cheese or chicken. However, feel free to use some of his daily kibble ration mixed with just a few high-value rewards for training sessions.
Almost all Labrador puppies are extremely food motivated. So, training with food is usually very effective. Once you have fully trained a behavior, you can start to reduce the rate of reward to select only choosing the top 10% of any behavior to reward. This will refine the behavior as well as decrease the need to have food rewards available at all times when asking for behaviors she already knows.
Success is Your Job
When training any new behavior, it is your job as a trainer to break behavior down into small enough components that your dog can be successful. If he is failing to meet your criteria several times in a row, it is not because he is stupid, it is because you are trying to advance too quickly.