Written March 14, 2009
Now that you have been using the sit-stay command for a while, let's try an out-of-sight stay. Teaching your dog to stay put even when you are not visible can be tough for your little guy to learn. Dogs, like small children, often think we don't know what is going on when we can't see them and they can't see us. This command can be even harder for dogs who want to be at their owner's side every minute of every day. As such, it is important to think in terms of "baby steps" when working with this command.
First, put your dog in the "sit" position. Next, use the hand signal for the "stay" command*, as well as the word "STAY". Next, hold the treat right above your dog's nose. Your dog will naturally look up. This is OK. Keep the treat in the same place while you slowly walk a full circle around your dog. Once you have completed the circle (and your dog has not moved his bottom from the floor), give your dog the treat you were holding above his nose.
After you had done this a few times and you are confident that your dog understands the concept (i.e., your dog is staying put while you walk around him), slowly increase the size of your circle. Eventually, using this concept, you should be able to put your dog in a successful sit-stay in the center of a room, while you walk the full circumference inside the room. Every time you come full circle and your dog has not moved, be sure to give him a treat.
Once your dog has mastered this circle sit-stay method. Try walking through an open or a glass door for a second or two. Slowly increase the number of seconds you stay on the other side of the door. Again, remember to give your dog a treat at the end of each successful "Stay" command. As your dog progresses, you will eventually be able to close the door and/or even leave a room, all the while remaining confident that your dog has not broken his sit-stay command. Also, Remember not to work with your dog for longer than about 15 minutes at a time. You don't want your pooch to get restless, since focus is needed when training.
Do NOT abuse your power. Some dogs are simply not capable of remaining in a "Stay" position for longer than 15 minutes. For other dogs, remaining in a "Stay" position for 30 minutes or even longer is nothing. Some dogs may go to sleep during this exercise and that is fine - as long as he stays put. Know your dog's limits and ALWAYS reward with lots and lots of praise. Let your little buddy know how pleased you are with his progress.
Now, on a separate note, I would be remiss if I did not mention that our youngest little girl, Ju-Ju, graduated her Beginner's Obedience Training class last Thursday. Michael and I are both VERY proud of her. She is such a smart little girl!
*If you have not yet taught your dog the "STAY" command, see the blog entry entitled: Teaching Basic Commands - Entry #3 ("Stay") - Part 1