Of all the basic obedience cues, stay is a tough one! Taught well, it requires a high degree of focus from the dog AND a respectable level of skill from the handler. Most puppies younger than 5-6 months of age have faster success with “wait” (a temporary hold). They lack extended focus and need impulse control basics.
With stay exercises, the dog remains seated or lying down as cued by the handler in the same spot until verbally released. Reliable stays are taught using three elements: duration, distance, and distractions. These elements must be adjusted according to the dog’s ability to respond correctly. With repeated “fails”, everyone becomes frustrated and learning is unproductive.
Sloppy Style Stays
Sloppy stays are those that work only within certain contexts. For example, the dog can sit and stay while the handler walks across the kitchen or around into another room and back. This exercise often falls apart if the dog is asked to sit in a different location or there is a distraction in the environment.
If a handler asks the dog to lie down and stay, then very tentatively backs away with his palm up like a stop sign, there appears to be a lack of confidence in the success rate of the endeavor. Sloppy stays happen when there is no plan for criteria setting, and the handler wings it with most practice trials. Another sloppy stay hallmark is the lack of generalization. Dogs don’t generalize well, so practice in multiple contexts matters.
Reliable Style Stays
Reliable stays require a plan of criteria setting, time, and lots of practice. The dog must “win” every time in order to maintain focus and make learning fun and productive. The duration of the stay is extended at different rates, depending on the dog and the context. An understanding of the stay cue makes it doable when the handler moves, but the dog remains in place rather than following. Then there are the distractions. All training works best when thresholds are recognized, respected, and incorporated correctly in the exercises.
Practice stay exercises in many places and vary the duration, distance, and distractions as appropriate for your dog’s training level. This generalizes the behavior.
Reliable sit and down stays are part of every well-trained dog’s repertoire. Stay is the best cue for building a dog’s focus and connection to his handler as well as his confidence. It is also applicable to countless situations in our daily routines.
Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel CPDT-KA, 2019 all rights reserved
Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC