How to Teach a Dog to Stay

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August 22, 2023
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Train Your Dog To Stay

It can be said that a dog who knows how to stay is generally a dog that can more readily be kept safe.  

The basic idea behind the stay command is asking a dog to pause – and usually, when a pause is needed, an action is prevented or stopped. Something unwanted is happening or something unwanted is about to happen.  

With that being said, the stay command carries great importance because it helps to keep a dog safe in a variety of situations. Imagine the doorbell ringing – your dog is kept from bolting out the door when the stay command is given. 

It’s about safety and good behavior.  

Keep reading to figure out what you need to get training started as well as some simple targeted steps to teach your dog how to stay. 

Prepare to Teach

Behind any good lesson is often some preparation on behalf of the teacher. And the same goes for dog training.  

Before any training session can take place, the owner should heed the following preparation advice: 

Step 1: Pick an area to train that has limited distractions.

Step 2: Make sure your dog is well-rested.

Step 3: Check your patience level: are you tired after a long day or are you fresh and up to the challenge?

Step 4: Choose your verbal cue or training word that will signal to your dog when to release the stay. Common examples include: okay, all done, free, etc. 

Step 5: Have a handful of your dog’s food ready to use as positive reinforcement. 

Your Training Manipulatives

The stay command needs to be taught in different stages with increasing degrees of difficulty in order to best set up your dog for success.  

As you move through the training process and you feel confident in your dog’s ability, you will increase usage of the following factors:

  • Distance: At the beginning of training, you should start fairly close to your dog when asking him or her to stay. As the training progresses, increase the distance between the two of you. 
  • Duration: When it comes to how long you expect your dog to hold the stay position, you will start with a couple of seconds and progressively add more time. 
  • Distraction: Intentionally start your training with very limited distractions. As your dog finds success in training, you can slowly add some distractions into the training environment in order to replicate a real-world experience. 

5 Steps to Follow

Once you are ready to go and you understand the mechanisms that are to be manipulated throughout the training, there are some simple steps to follow that will help you teach your dog how to stay.  

Step 1: Pick a start position for your dog, whether that be sitting, standing, or laying down.  

Step 2: Give your stay command.  

Step 3: Do not move and count to three. Give your release word. If your dog remains in the stay position, that’s okay! Just move about, give verbal praise, or add some excitement to help your dog understand that your release word means he or she can move.  

Step 4: Manipulate distance and duration, now. For the distance component, add only a step or two between each phase of this training. If your dog fails to comply after a certain amount of distance, reset and make sure to not increase the distance until the step interval is mastered. The same goes for the duration. After your dog proves that he or she can hold the stay position for a given amount of time, increase that time in conjunction with distance. Above all, do not move forward with increasing the rigor until your dog has mastered the current scenario. Resetting is okay – actually, it’s a must! 

Step 5: When your dog has progressed through an increased distance and duration regime, it’s now time to add in real-world distractions in order to make sure the stay skill can be transferred to a realistic home and outdoor world. Again, start small and build distraction levels as you move along.  


Teaching your dog to stay is a solid tool to have when it comes to keeping your dog safe. In order to offer your dog a positive training experience, be sure to take the steps to ensure the conditions are right for training. 

In no time your dog should learn how to comply with the stay command. And if that’s not the case, reach out to us at Minnesota Canine Consulting and we can help along the way!


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