One of the most important things to teach a dog is to stay. But there’s more to it than that. Teaching a dog to sit and stay is one thing, but if she can learn to lie down and relax for long periods of time, even better. There is a big difference.
A dog that reliably lies down, stays and relaxes when told is a dog that is under control, calm and nonthreatening. See my post: How to teach a dog to go to her bed.
She is safe because she is focused and will pay attention to her owner. She knows how to control herself, which means she can be taken almost anywhere.
She will not charge after a strange dog or person. She will not run into the street. She will not demand attention when her owner is busy or trying to have a conversation.
Think of the German shepherd that works as a service dog, calmly lying beside her owner’s desk all day while he works. Think of the Lab that sits quietly in a boat for six hours waiting to retrieve a single mallard.
It’s not natural for a dog to be bouncing off the walls, panting nonstop and jumping up on everyone. It’s just that we see this behavior so often that it seems natural. We are more likely to be surprised when we see a dog that’s calm!
The problem is, most dog owners do not teach their dogs to stay at all. And the ones that do are satisfied when their dogs stay for a few seconds without distractions.
I’m guessing if you read this blog your dog stays better than most dogs. However, there is always room for improvement.
A good goal is for any dog to be able to lie down and stay in one spot for a half-hour even with medium distractions such as other dogs, kids running, toys being thrown or someone knocking on the door. I’m not talking about a dog lounging around the house for five hours.
I’m referring to structured staying in one spot when told. Although, telling your dog to stay while you watch TV is a good time to practice. See: How to teach your dog the place command.
Some examples of when it’s convenient to have a dog that stays for a half-hour are:
1. When guests are over for dinner and you don’t want to confine your dog to a kennel
2. When you take your dog to an outdoor restaurant
3. When you want to bring your dog to a soccer game
Of course, when teaching a dog anything, it’s important to teach dogs using small steps. My mutt is to the point where he will stay for a good 10 minutes with small to medium distractions. He is far from reliable in many situations such as on the agility course when he’s rearing to go or when someone rings my doorbell.
Mostly it is because I haven’t worked with him or challenged him enough. I know he is capable. After all, he will stay reliably off leash when I throw a tennis ball! That’s proof that with enough repetitions, my mutt or any other dog can learn to stay in most situations.
The key is to build from you and your dog’s comfort levels and slowly work up to longer periods of staying with more and more distractions. For example, if you want your dog to stay while guests are over for dinner, practice having her stay in one spot every time you eat. A dog bed works great for this one.
And remember, you don’t have to wait to praise your dog until you release her. Instead, praise her while she is calm and staying!
How reliable is your dog with the “stay” command?