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ALL ABOUT DOGS: Teaching Max to consistently ‘stay’ is tough but rewarding command

Question: Our dog is about 7 months old now. He does fairly well on the leash and performs all of the basic commands pretty well, too. Except for “stay.” How do we teach him this cue?

Answer: Most people don’t realize that “stay,” in spite of the simplicity of the concept, is a fairly difficult command to build in a consistent, reliable way. This is why I always leave this one for last. Because if you’ve taught Max to come, sit, down and heel on command, by this time (purportedly) he’s used to learning new things and he’s familiar with the training pattern. Of course the most important piece in that pattern is the consistent, immediate reward as soon as he does what we want.

Last week we talked about the “wait” cue. Your dog should know “wait” before he learns the “stay” command. “Wait” communicates to Max that since you cross thresholds first, you’re the leader. Wait is like a temporary “stay,” for usually no longer than 20 seconds at the most. But “wait” is also the precursor to “stay” because if you can get him to hold his position briefly, you can teach him to stay for incrementally longer and longer periods. Remember, though, when you teach wait or stay, there must be a release cue as well. In other words, like everything else, the leader makes the call on when the release happens. Do not let him decide for himself when to get up. The release cue is a simple “OK.”

The hand signal for “stay” is to show your dog the palm of your hand, like a halt sign. Keep it nice and perpendicular to the ground, not angled. Start in the kitchen or another familiar area in your house. Your dog has never heard “stay” but since he understands the basic precept of standing by when he hears “wait,” use both cues along with the new hand signal at first.

Soon, you’ll drop “wait.” Put Max in a specific spot in the “down” position. I put the dog in a “down” position at first because it takes more effort for him to break when he’s lying down. Later of course, he’ll perform “stay” while sitting too, but this is where I start. Show him the new hand signal and say “wait … STAY” as you step back a few feet, showing him the hand signal. Keep your hand up, and repeat “wait … STAY” several times. You’re getting the new word and the signal into his head. Pace back and forth a little, and don’t stand in one spot.

See if Max will hold it for 30 seconds. If he starts to get up, say “ah, ah, ah ah.” If he hops up, say “NO!” and calmly lead him back to the spot, and repeat the cue. Keep your eye on the clock. If he holds it for 30 seconds, quickly get back to him and reward him. If he’s impatient and you can see he’ll only hold his position for 15 seconds, start there. After he’s held his position for the allotted time, quickly step back to him each time with a small treat, and, pop it into his mouth as you give him over-the-top praise. Then quickly release him with “OK!”

The idea on the first training day is to get him to one minute. You may have to correct when you were just trying to get him to 30 seconds. Watch him like a hawk as you pace back and forth, so you can immediately correct when he breaks. But the more important thing is to reward him for even the shortest increment of time, when he holds his position. If it’s only 10 seconds at first, fine. He’s being rewarded for compliance, and we have to start somewhere! More on this next week.

Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who “teaches dogs and trains people.” Contact him at dogteacher7@aol.com or dogsbestfriendflorida.com.

Source: http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20180719/all-about-dogs-teaching-max-to-consistently-stay-is-tough-but-rewarding-command

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