TEACHING BASIC COMMANDS - Entry #3 ("Stay" Part 1)

January 18, 2009

Once your dog has learned the “Sit” command. Natural progression tells you to teach him to “Stay”. This command is extremely useful in many circumstances, including preventing your dog from getting into all kinds of trouble. According to Dr. Rolan Tripp, D.V.M, some compelling reasons for you to teach your dog this command include:

· Giving your dog good street manners, such as stopping and sitting at curbs;
· Keeping him from begging by putting him in a “sit-stay” or “down-stay” during meals;
· Subduing aggression by putting him in a “down-stay” any time he acts dominant;
· Keeping him out of harm’s way in an emergency, if you suddenly have to turn your attention elsewhere.

Other examples are when at home someone rings the doorbell and you let visitors into your home, or outdoors when your dog might want to chase something it is interested in.

Ok, now that you’re convinced that you need to teach your dog the “Stay” command, here’s how:

First, ask your dog to sit in front of you. Then, place your open hand in front of your dog’s face as if you are telling him to stop, but instead give the command, “Stay”. Count to 3 and then reward your dog with praise and a treat. Repeat this process while slowing increasing the amount of time you wait before praising your dog.

Once your dog can hold a Stay while you count to ten, then increase the difficulty by taking a few steps backward. If your dog continues to successfully hold the “sit”, then continue to slowly increase the difficulty by stepping further away. However, during this phase of the training, do not let your dog’s sight. This will come in Part 2, to follow soon.

Other Helpful tips:

- Don’t teach too much at one time and overload your dog. On the first day, practice with your dog for just 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure that your dog is having fun, and you should be having fun, too. If your dog is not having fun, you should end the exercise and try again at another time.

- As always, end every session on a positive note.

- Practice this command often – even if you feel your dog has fully mastered it.

- Eventually try to phase out the food reward in exchange for lavish praise.

- Gently praise your dog periodically during the stay to let him know he's on the right track. If you just reprimand him for breaking the stay, he won't want to follow the command. If you praise him two or three times before he breaks the stay and only reprimand after breaking it, he'll learn that staying is good and breaking the stay is bad. And that's exactly what you want him to think.

- Use reprimands only after your dog can hold the Stay for at least 30 seconds.

- Pay attention to your dog. You never want to set your dog up for failure. If you don’t pay attention while your dog is staying, he won’t pay attention to your command. Watch for signs that he is ready to break the Stay and cut the exercise short, if necessary. Your focus should be on rewarding your dog for good responses, not punishing him for mistakes.

- Don’t use the stay command more than 5 times per day. For training to be effective it needs to be fun for your dog – don’t abuse your power.

Check back for the next blog entry in this series: TEACHING BASIC COMMANDS - ("STAY") – Part 2.

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