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Starting to train 'stay' when your puppy is young is the best way to ensure a reliable stay later in life. Luckily, training your Rottweiler puppy to stay is fairly easy, although you should expect to practice often over the course of his life to keep this behavior ingrained.
'Stay' happens to be one of several behaviors considered by professional trainers to teach dogs “impulse control.” When your puppy learns from an early age that patience can be rewarding, it helps him grow into a dog that is able and willing to wait for long periods of time – an important quality to teach powerful dogs such as Rottweilers.
This guide includes three different methods to train stay: two ways to teach the basics and an 'Advanced Skills' method to really make his stay strong under any circumstances.
Our methods focus on the power of reward and discourage overuse of punishment. The reason for this is that punishment, particularly physical punishment, can make your Rottweiler insecure, fearful or aggressive later in life. This means we will recommend ignoring unwanted behaviors, such as breaking the 'stay' without being released, in the early stages of training.
Once you have trained your Rottweiler puppy to stay with some reliability and have started proofing the behavior, you can and should add a consequence for failure to hold her position. This can be as simple as a “time out” in her kennel, a harsh tone, or a quick squirt from a water bottle.
Because she will have built up so much practice being rewarded for the RIGHT behavior, it won’t take much correction for her to realize that her best bet is to earn a possible reward rather than a possible punishment. If you start punishment too early you will end up with a dog that fears learning, is emotionally shut down, and is much more dangerous than a confident dog that has been given lots of opportunities to experience praise and reward for making the right choices.
Verbal and non-verbal cue: You should decide on a hand signal for 'stay' in addition to your verbal command. Just use them both at the same time early in training. For advanced training, just use one or the other so they can both trigger the behavior on their own.
High-Value Rewards: You will need to use rewards that you can repeat quickly without disrupting the flow of training or taking the focus off of the task at hand. Food is the best motivator. If you are worried about a weight issue, just know that your Rottweiler is very likely to work quite hard for pieces of their regular kibble rations, mixed with a few tasty treats like small bits of cheese or cold cuts.
Release: You will be training a release word alongside the 'stay' command. It is your job to make sure he never gets rewarded for breaking a 'stay' without being properly released.
Success: The fastest way to train any new behavior is to have lots of success and a high rate of reward. If your Rottweiler puppy is failing a lot, then you have set the bar too high, too fast. Success rate should be at least 80%. If she falls short of that she will get confused, frustrated, and disinterested in training. Unmotivated dogs, just like unmotivated people, resist learning new things.
The Sit-Stay Method
When to use this method
Use this method if you want your Rottweiler puppy to always assume a specific position for the stay, in this case, 'sit'. (However, you can also use 'down' or 'stand' if you prefer…just be consistent.) If you want your dog to “freeze” in whatever position she is in when you ask her to stay, proceed to the 'Freeze' method.
Assuming he already knows 'sit', ask for the 'sit' while he is standing right in front of you. Say “Staaaaay” in a long drawn out tone and simultaneously use your hand signal. Wait a single second and if he stays, either use your clicker or a special sound to “mark” the correct behavior, followed by putting a treat within reach of his mouth. Repeat until you are able to get about 10 seconds of a 'stay'.
Add the release word to the training by saying “OKAY!” after a few seconds of a 'sit' and 'stay', or a few rewards for successful staying. This time, throw the treat a few feet or yards away from her so she will have to break her position to get the treat. Praise her for breaking the stay after the release.
Distance and duration
While continuing to practice both stay and release, start to add more distance and duration to your stay drills. Of course, this will take several training sessions. Move at your puppy’s pace.
Once you have both the 'stay' and the release word properly trained so you get a reliable 20 second stay with you being able to walk around your puppy or even step into the next room for a few seconds, proceed to the 'Advanced Skills' method to strengthen the 'stay' behavior.
The Freeze Method
When to use this method
Another way some people like to train their Rottweiler puppy to 'stay' is to actually have them freeze in position and then hold it (whether it is 'sit', 'down' or 'standing') until released. The process for doing this will involve good timing on your part so that you can quickly reward the position before she shifts.
The easiest way is to just start with a 'sit/stay', rewarding for even the smallest duration of a stay after you have given your command. Wait a few more seconds, and if she has not changed position, mark and reward again. After a few repetitions of this, start asking for 'down', repeat. Then catch her standing, and ask for the 'stay', quickly taking even a second of holding the 'stand' before rewarding. Of she sits, ignore, do not reward, try again next time.
Gradually increase the time you wait before marking and rewarding the 'stay' in the position she is in when you use the command. Once you have a reliable 10 second “freeze” in any position, you are ready to move on to the next step.
This is where you want to add the release word, usually “Okay!” Start randomly adding the release followed by tossing the treat away from her so she has to break the stay to get it. Praise her as she does so. Remember to continue to also ask for her to hold the stay, and reward for multiple periods before practicing the release.
Add distance, duration and movement to training your Rottweiler puppy to stay. Once you are getting a 20 second stay, are able to walk around her during a stay, and can even leave the room for a few seconds, you are ready for the steps in the 'Advanced Skills' method.
The Advanced Skills Method
If you want your Rottweiler puppy to stay regardless of the distractions in the environment, you have to do what professional dog trainers call “proofing” the behavior. This means extending your 'stay' drill practice to a variety of contexts so that he comes to expect to stay in any situation.
It probably goes without saying, but probably the most important way to proof a stay is to go to as many places as you can to safely work on your 'stay' drills (and any other behaviors you are working on with your dog). If you are concerned about safety, use a long line or rope so that your puppy feels free, but you can regain control of him in a hurry if need be.
Practice around other dogs by finding places where other dogs are, and starting your stay drills a fair bit away, moving closer as she is ready. Examples include dog sporting events, at the pet store, or along a well-known dog walking path that gets lots of traffic.
Make sure he is ready to stay even when you are not watching by slowly adding time “out of sight” to your drills. Extend only as he is able to be successful most of the time.
Add a consequence
At some point, only after he has the basics of stay down and you are starting to proof the behavior, you will have to add a consequence for breaking the stay before being released. Usually a harsh tone, a squirt with a water gun, or a “time out” in the crate is enough.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 02/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021