Teach Stay
Using These Easy Steps

Teaching your dog to stay in one place can help remedy a lot of dog behavior problems. It’s one of those dog commands that can be used almost anywhere. It allows you some time and distance away from your dog without him wandering off and getting into trouble.

The big picture goal is to ask our dog to stay, walk away from the dog to the end of the leash, turn around and face your dog, wait one minute, and walk back to heel position by going all the way around your dog.

This command involves the length of time your dog is required to stay in one position and the distance you are away from him. We will increase both time and distance gradually until we’ve reached our goal.

  1. First, your dog will need to be wearing a collar and a six foot leash is recommended.
  2. With your dog sitting in heel position, give the command “Stay.” At the same time, without turning your body, bring your right hand across your body, fingers together with your palm inside to stop right in front of your dog’s nose. Do Not touch your dog’s nose or wave your hand in front of his face.
  3. Then step out using your right foot and pivot your body to stand right in front of your dog.
  4. If your dog gets up, correct him by saying “No.” Return to heel position and start again giving the command and stepping out in front of your dog.
  5. Once you’re standing directly in front of and facing your dog, count to 10 and pivot back to the heel position. Praise your dog!

The idea on praising your dog is to catch them when they get it right. We want to set our dogs up for success from the beginning.

Repeat this step over about 10 times. After that, increase the amount of time you stand in front of your dog. Go to 20 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 45 seconds until you’ve reached a minute.

A word of caution about time and dogs: Dogs can measure time and they anticipate your next move. If, when practicing, you always make your dog stay for exactly 25 seconds and then return right on time, your dog will know this and anticipate it. So, when increasing the length of time and you don’t return back at exactly 25 seconds your dog may get up and come to you because he thinks that the time is up. A good idea is to vary the amount of time your dog stays and definitely go longer than a minute so that your dog doesn’t anticipate your return.

  1. Now, I want to challenge your dog a little bit. This step can be real tricky! Instead of pivoting back to the heel position I want you to walk all the way around your dog.
  2. Your dog will want to watch and follow you when you walk around him so I want you to anticipate him getting up.
  3. With you facing your dog, walk to your right, around the back of the dog and stop at heel position. Correct your dog if he gets up by saying “No” and start the exercise over.
  4. Now, I want you to walk completely around your dog three times and then stop at heel position. Correct your dog when he gets up and praise him when he gets it right.
  5. Here we will try adding some distance. Just like before, give the command and pivot in front of your dog. Take one step back count to 10 and return to your dog. Do this 5 times.
  6. Next, give the command, pivot in front and take two steps back. Count to 10 and return to your dog.
Another note about time:

If you find your dog getting up before you finish counting then at the next repetition go back to your dog right before your dog gets up to praise him. So, for example, if your dog seems to be getting up around your seventh or eighth count, go back when you reach 5. This will establish some positive reinforcement to that your dog knows what it is he’s doing right.

  1. Continue your repetitions while gradually adding distance after about 5 times at each new step back.
  2. Next, I want you to give the command and walk away from your dog without looking back, go about one step and turn around and face your dog. Correct your dog if he follows you. Praise him if he stays.
Put it all together

Now we can take all the steps and put them together. Give your dog the command, walk to the end of the leash, turn around and face your dog, wait one minute, return to your dog walking all the way around and stop at the heel position. Exercise finished! Praise your dog and pat yourself on the back!

Down Stay

Use the exact same steps as above except have your dog lay down at the heel position first.

Practice This Command Around The House

At the door:
You can have your children, spouse, neighbor or friend help you with this training. This enables you to have this command already down before your company arrives. You don’t want to keep your guests waiting on the doorstep in the cold while you work with your dog. Also, before letting your dog in or out have him practice sitting and staying.

In the kitchen:
While fixing dinner, have your dog do a “Down-Stay” on a blanket or dog bed. Practice again at when your at the dinner table.

At the gate:
Use this command to keep your dog in your yard even if the gate is left open. Practice this on leash.

Advanced Training

Now that you have the basics down, you can start adding distractions to test your dog. Adding distractions will help fool-proof your dog’s stay.

Examples of distractions

  1. new people at the house
  2. tossing a ball or toy in front of your dog
  3. another dog walking around the training area
  4. another person working with another dog close by
  5. a cat in the area (make sure the cat is not afraid of dogs)
  6. a bowl of treats or dog food kibble

The next advancement will be doing this off-leash. Starting with the finished sit-stay we will add one more step: remove the leash. So the big picture goal now looks like this:

At the heel position with the dog sitting, remove the leash, ask your dog to stay, walk away from the dog about 5 to 10 steps, turn around and face your dog, wait one minute, and walk back to heel position by going all the way around your dog.

This is usually fairly easy for the dog. A tool that helps with off-leash training is called a tab. This is basically a small leash about 4 to 6 inches long that is lightweight and hangs off your dog’s collar. It gives you something to grab onto if needed, but still allows the dog to be off the leash.

Repetition and praise is needed to get your dog to this level.

Out of Sight
Ready for more advanced training? Let’s have the dog stay while we’re out of sight! Sound too hard? It’s not really. We just break it down into small steps until our goal is accomplished.

Using a doorway to a bedroom is a good spot to start this training. It allows us to be close to the dog to make corrections while getting out of the dog’s vision.

Have your dog sit just outside the door. Give the command and walk around the door just on the other side of the wall. If your dog gets up, say “No” and start again. Keep the time short, about 10 seconds then return to your dog and praise him. Increase the amount of time you are out of sight. Then, just like above, add some distance.

It’s helpful to have another person act like a “spotter” when doing this training. Their job is to let you know if the dog does move.

And that’s it! Now we can look for more useful ways to use this command around the house and in our daily lives. Happy Training!

Return to Dog Obedience Training from Teach Stay

Return to Dog Training For Living from Teach Stay

Popular Commands


Get dog training tips delivered to your inbox!

Dogs inhabit our homes, our lives, our very souls.  They show us how to live our lives; with compassion, with vigor, with purpose. 

Share your life with a dog.