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How to Teach Your Dog to Stay

Training Tip Tuesday

By DCSPCA Canine Lead Trainer Jodi

The “Stay” cue is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. It’s incredibly helpful when leaving your home, when guests come over, and when your dog might be distracted by vehicles, other pets, or small animals. You’ll want to first teach your dog the “Sit” cue before you move on to “Stay.”

Just follow these simple steps to teach your dog the “Stay” command:

1. Choose a safe and quiet space. Any distraction can disrupt your progress.

2. Ask your dog to “Sit.” If your pup hasn’t already learned the sit command, I would recommend postponing the stay command and teaching sit first. If your dog isn’t sitting, it is almost impossible to get them to stay.

3. Once your dog sits, don’t give them a reward right away. Wait a few seconds first. Then you can reward your dog with a high value treat.

4. Ask your dog to sit again, but this time wait a few more seconds before giving them a reward. Do this several more times, each time increasing the delay between the sit command and their reward by three to five seconds. Keep gradually increasing the length of time until you hit at least 15 seconds. You can begin to introduce the word “stay” here and use a flat palm facing the dog for support. Do not repeat the command more than once.

5. Now it’s time to introduce the release command. Start by telling your dog to sit, then after 15 seconds have elapsed, give your release command, and toss some training treats so your pup must get up to retrieve them. A release command is a word like “OK” or “Free.”

6. Once you know how to teach a dog to stay, you can up the ante and begin working on the 3 Ds: Duration, Distance, and Distractions.


The amount of time your dog remains in his stay is called duration. Increase the time you ask your dog to stay by two to three second intervals. If your dog breaks his stay, just reset him and ask him to stay for a lesser time so that he can be successful.


Moving away from your dog is referred to as distance, and it is common for owners to rush this phase of training. Teaching distance stays happen literally a half step at a time. Position your dog as you wish and give your dog his stay command. Step back with one foot, lean back, then step back to your dog and treat him. Next, take one full step back then return to your dog and treat him. Continue slowly, adding only one step at a time. Remember, do not have food in the hand in which you give your dog the stay command.


Distractions are anything, big or small, that happens during your dog’s stay. It is important to have a strong foundation with your release word, stay duration, and distance before you try and add distractions. Once distractions are to be added, start with something easy at home or in the back yard, and work your way up to more distractions in various environments.

PRO TIP: I would recommend Karen Overall’s Relaxation 15 day protocols to help you to build up the 3 Ds with your dog.

Here we see Jodi working with COOPER:

If you’re interested in adopting Cooper, please fill out an application. Then come in to meet him! We are open Tuesday-Sunday 12pm - 5pm.

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