Stays Classroom

You should have a clear idea about what you expect from your dog when you give him a stay command so you can communicate it clearly to him. If you expect him to hold his place and position until you return to him, make sure he does this during practice. Reliable stays take repetition and are dependent on building on success. Be realistic about the amount of practice you’ve done before expecting your dog to remain still while in a sit, down or stand.

The “Stay” is really an unnecessary command since it can be implied with the “Sit”, “Down” or “Stand” commands. If you ask your dog to “Sit” you are asking him to “Sit” and to continue to “Sit” until released, making a “Stay” redundant. If you want to add the “Stay”, do so but I feel it is clearer and easier for the dog to understand one command. “Sit”, “Down” or “Stand” commands are the only ones really needed.

When breaking down a “stay” command there are three essential components that are necessary to for your dog to successfully stay in position. First, there is “Time” or duration. This is the amount of time that your dog can stay in a Sit, Down, or Stand. Second, there is “Distance”. This is the distance you can move away from your dog while he stays. ,there are “Distractions”. Also know as proofing or testing your dog’s knowledge of the stay.

PDF Files to help your training!

Stays Points to Remember PDF

Stays Problem Solving PDF

Stays Training Log PDF

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

Ideally, look for your dog to remain in the position without any movement of his feet. Additionally, it is best to keep your dog in an “active” state. This state refers to your dog concentrating on the task at hand until released. In other words, to remain in position but always ready to react in a blink of an eye.

Before you begin have ready any equipment you may need for the class,  treats, leash and toys for reward and play, etc.

Teaching the skill

Level 1

  • Put your dog into the position you want like him for a stay. Use your “sit, down or stand command” and move directly in front of him. I prefer to always start training stays with my dog in a sit position, then proceed to the down position after my dog understands the sit concept and finally the stand position.
  • Start to slowly deliver your dog a treat. Give him some feedback such as “good boy”, “yes”, etc. for his effort if he holds the position.
  • As soon as you give a treat, follow with releasing your dog upward to a treat or toAs soon as you give your dog a treat, release your dog upward to another treat or a toy.
  • Releasing your dog in this manner will keep your dog in an “active” mind set.

Repeat the process again from the start.

  • Keep this level easy by delivering the treat to your dog straight in front of him.
  • During this Level you want to gradually increase the number of treats you deliver to your dog.
  • The more treats you deliver to your dog the longer your dog stays in position.
  • For your first few sessions, train your dog in a familiar distraction free location.
  • Reward your dog WHEN he is on the stay.
  • Always use an energizing release.
 If at any time your dog starts to move, quickly withdraw the hand with the treat and mark your dog’s movement with a negative marker word such as “nope” or “wrong.” Repeat the attempt to see if your dog learned his job, to remain in place. Just take the process slowly.  

Level 2

The next step is to change the angle the treat is being delivered, or add simple proofing.

  • Once again, place your dog in the position you would like him to maintain and stand in front of your dog.
  • As soon you are in front of your dog, start to deliver a treat slowly.
  • If he remains in position, take another treat and again deliver the treat slowly only this time deliver the treat from a different angle.
  • Remember to give your dog verbal feedback about his successes or failures.
  • As in level 1, you can now repeat this process over and over.
  • Randomize the number of treats you delivery to your dog during each repetition.
  • What you are doing is building an association in your dog’s mind between him maintaining position and being reinforced with the treat.

Level 3

It’s now time to add some other variables. Up until now (in levels 1 and 2) you have been working in a familiar environment that was free from distractions and you have just been standing right in front of your dog. Now is the time to start to mix it up a little and start proofing or testing your dog’s knowledge of his job in different situations and in a variety of environments. As with all proofing, only change one variable at a time. (See my Proofing book for additional information.)

  • Begin by asking your dog to sit, down, or stand again, I prefer to do the sit position first, later adding the down and finally the stand.
  • Walk a few feet from your dog and start to deliver your treat slowly. Provide your dog with positive verbal feedback if he is doing well (staying) or a negative marker and withdraw treat hand if he “thinks” about moving.
  • Continue to repeat this process, and gradually increase the number of steps you take from your dog or angle you are away from your dog.
  • The next challenge you can add is to move your training session to a different location, possibly somewhere with only minor distractions.
Remember to take the process slowly and only add one new variable at a time.

Level 4 – Lastly, testing the dog planting his feet.

  • Start with your dog in the position you would like him to maintain, sit, down, or stand.
  • Slowly apply a gentle pressure with one hand to your dog’s shoulder.
  • If your dog resists your pressure and does not move, remove your hand and slowly deliver a treat followed by an energizing release. I prefer to use a steady pressure on one side of the dog to teach the dog to really “plant” his feet and not move.
  • If your dog moves with your pressure or push, use your free hand to apply counter pressure on the opposite side of your dog. For example, if I apply pressure on my dog’s right shoulder and he moves, I will use my free hand and place it on my dog’s opposite shoulder while still applying the pressure or push. The extra stabilizing hand shows the dog how to counter-balance and resist the pushing hand.
Remember to end with an energizing release to a treat when your dog completes his work correctly.

 When starting to teach out of sight stays, start by leaving and re-entering a room quickly. Over many training sessions, continue to add more time when you are out of sight. ALWAYS train in a location where you can see your dog. The trick for stays, whether in or out of sight, is the building of your dog’s confidence in the stay before pushing to the next level and proofing your dog’s understanding of the stay in a fair and gradual method. DO NOT RUSH. Better to do foundations well then having to go back and fix problems! 
1. Sit means sit, down means down, and stand means stand. Stay command isn’t needed.
2. No movement of your dog’s feet are allowed.
3. No sniffing – your dog must “think” about the stay.
4. Don’t rush to get distance. A solid foundation will give you a solid stay!
5. Proofing and distractions should be done out of a stay line.
6. If a problem arises in stay line, take your dog out of line and fix the problem before attempting a stay line again.
7. Always be careful of correcting your dog on the stay line. It can be a negative experience to other dogs nearby as well as a bad association to the ring environment for your dog.
8. Be aware of inadvertently teaching incorrect behaviors. i.e. when you tell your dog to sit, etc. make sure you release your dog and he doesn’t release himself.


The following are a few ideas from my Success is in the Proofing book.

Proofing relating to anticipation:

Down your dog and release him three times. Then bend over as if you were going to give a down command, but remain silent or say a word other than your down command.

Proofing involving environmental factors:

Stand in front of your dog while you wave your arms, touch your toes, or practice jumping jacks.


Slip your hand into your dog’s collar. Gently pull up, down, or from side to side. Will you dog resist the temptation to move?

Proofing involving sound:

Stand in front or beside him and squeak a toy. If your dog is successful, stand behind him and squeak the toy.

  • Your dog keeps moving and will not stay. Review the foundations with your dog.  Go through each step and make sure your dog is confident before progressing to the next step.
  •  Your dog keeps leaning to get the treat as you deliver it slowly to him. Make sure you give your dog verbal feedback.  “Good boy” when he stays planted and “nope” or “wrong” if you see him starting to lean.  Also remember to exaggerate taking away the treat when he starts to lean.
  • Your dog moves sideways as you step to the right or left of him. Only move once he is confident in the first step, delivering from in front of your dog.  Once he is, take one step to the right or left and repeat delivering the treats slowly until your dog is confident.  In addition you can use opposition pressure on the shoulder opposite the side you are delivering the treat.
  • Your dog fidgets with his front feet. Having front feet steady is very important.  Review foundations with your dog. If your dog just doesn’t seem to understand that foot movement isn’t desired, take a 2-3’ ruler or small rod and lean it against your dog’s front feet.  If he moves a foot, say “nope” or “wrong” and go back to him.  Tap the ruler on the ground as you say “bad ruler” then replace it leaning against his feet.  Praise your dog as you replace the ruler.
  • Once you are getting distance, your dog starts to move as you are leaving or starting to deliver the treat. Simplify and leave your dog at less distance.  Build on success and understanding.
End Goal – For your dog to stay and be confident in position in an active state regardless the location or distractions.

Before progressing to your next class –

Does your DOG?

Remain in position in a Sit, Down or Stand?

Able to stay with Proofing?

Always confident?

If the answer is no to any of the above question you might need to spend more time on this game.

Now that you have done all the steps, worked close, over time added angles and distance, as well as tested and proofed, your dog should have a GREAT understanding of Stays!