Jump to section
Puppies are curious creatures who are excited to learn about the world around them. As much fun as it is to watch your puppy discover new things, there are situations where staying put is much more important. If your puppy is in a full sprint towards the street, you want one command which can stop them in their tracks. You also need a way to encourage your new pup to stay in one place and keep them out from underfoot. 'Stay' is a powerful tool for teaching your puppy good manners and keeping him safe.
For many puppies, 'stay' is a little harder than 'sit' or other basic commands. Their instinct is to follow you wherever you go. You’re their person after all. However, teaching him to stay is another important building block for training a polite puppy. With this command, it is important to build the skill slowly. You are trying to get to the point where your puppy will honor the 'stay' even in distracting, chaotic situations, so don’t push too hard too fast. Be patient and train your puppy in short sessions over several weeks.
For this command, gather some high-value treats that your puppy only gets during training. Depending on the method you choose, you will also need one of your puppy’s favorite toys, a collar, and a leash. In the beginning, you should train in a quiet, distraction-free area. However, as your puppy gains confidence in the command, you will need to “proof” their staying ability in more dynamic atmospheres.
The Hand Signal Method
Reward your puppy for focus
Give your puppy the command to sit or lie down. Once he is in position, place your hand in front of you with your palm facing your puppy and hold it still for a few seconds. If your puppy stays put and focuses on your palm, reward him with a treat and praise him with a reward word, such as “good job.”
Repeat the action with the command word
Get your puppy into position again and hold out your hand while saying the command word, “stay.” Keep it still for a few seconds and then reward and praise your puppy.
Hold the stay for a longer duration
Once your puppy consistently focuses on you, start to gradually lengthen the amount of time he holds the stay. You want your pup to eventually hold the stay position for about a minute. However, keep in mind that puppies have a short attention span, so you want to break up your training sessions with fun.
Add some distance
After your puppy can hold the 'stay' for a whole minute, start adding distance. Tell him to stay and then take a step back. If he moves towards you, lure him back to the previous position and try again. If he stays put, walk back towards him and then give him a reward and some well-earned praise.
Gradually increase the distance
As your puppy gets the hang of staying while you move away from him, begin increasing the number of steps you take each time, making sure to face him the entire time. Any time he moves from the 'stay', lure him back to the original position and try that distance again. Only praise your puppy when he stays in place until you walk away and back to him again.
Try different body positions
It is easier for your puppy to stay when you are facing him. Once he becomes accustomed to the 'stay' command, try turning away from him and walking away. If he gets up, put him back in position and return to backing away from him. You can also try walking to the side or around him in a circle so he gets used to staying while you move in different ways.
Add in distractions
The best way to be sure your puppy understands the 'stay' command is to add in distractions. Tell your puppy to stay and then ring the doorbell or throw a ball. If he stays put, give him a lot of praise. It is much harder to comply with the stay command when there are other things going on.
The Leash Training Method
Start with a 'sit'
Attach your puppy to his leach and put him in a 'sit' on your left side, while holding his leash slack. For this method, you will need a command word, “stay,” and a release word, such as “good” or “okay.”
Say the command
First, turn to face your puppy and then hold your hand in front of his nose and tell him to stay. Then, take a few steps back, still holding the leash slack. Wait a few seconds.
Use the release word
If your puppy stays put, go back to where you were and put one foot on the leash. You don’t want the leash to be tight or pulling on his collar, but you don’t want him to jump up either. Use the release word and then praise and reward your puppy for staying.
If your puppy doesn't stay...
Stay quiet and calmly return to your original position. Get him back into a 'sit', hold your hand in front of his face, and step away in the same way. Be patient and keep trying until he is successful. You don’t want to move on to the next step too soon.
Try longer distances
Gradually increase the distances until you can walk at least five steps away from him. You can start walking in different directions or circling him. Keep it slow and focus on making sure the training sticks.
The Toss the Treat Method
Get your puppy set up
Place your puppy on his leash. You may want to use a harness for this method if you have one, so your puppy isn’t pulling on his neck. Tell him to sit or lie down and then kneel next to him.
Place the treat nearby
Hold your puppy by the collar or kneel on his leash to stop him from getting the treats. Put the treat about arm’s length away from your puppy.
Wait until your puppy stays calmly
You want your puppy to stay without pulling or leaving his 'stay'. If he is pulling and trying to get to the treat, wait patiently. The more he pulls, the longer you wait. When he holds the position without pulling, say “good stay” while you reach for the treat.
Release your puppy from the stay
Using a release word, such as “okay,” let your puppy up from the stay, and give him the treat and lots of praise and playtime. You want your puppy to connect staying put with getting a good reward.
Toss the treat further away
After a few repetitions, you want to increase the distance of the treat. Stand up, hold the leash close to you, and toss the reward about two feet away. Wait until your puppy is calm and still before reaching for the reward. Your puppy may get excited when you touch the rewards so be prepared to wait until he is calm. Once he holds the 'stay' properly, release him and give him his reward.
Throw the object so you have to walk to retrieve it
Repeat step five until your puppy can perform it consistently. Then throw the reward further away. Tell your puppy to stay and then walk backwards to the reward, while holding your hand with your palm facing your puppy. Keep praising him as you bring the reward back. Then, release him and give him the reward.
Proof the command
In a few sessions, your puppy should get the hang of the game, especially if you are consistent with your command and release words. You can start experimenting with different distractions and rewards. Keep in mind that bigger distractions should get bigger rewards, so your puppy learns that waiting patiently gets him a great reward faster than pulling.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 02/19/2018, edited: 01/08/2021