The "stay" cue is something most of us teach our dogs, and for good reason! It's super useful. Your dog can learn to:
Because it is such a versatile cue for our dogs to learn, it's important that we teach it to the best of our ability to make sure it's as useful as possible. In my years of teaching classes, I've come across 3 common mistakes owners make that can hinder their ability to teach an even better "stay" cue.
1. Repeating the Cue
When we ask for a "stay" we should teach our dogs to stay in that place until we say otherwise. It can be really tempting, however, to keep your hand help up like a stop sign and say "stay....stay....stay..." the entire time. We want our dog to succeed and stay even longer, right? That might feel like the best way to lengthen your stays.
However, think to some of the scenarios mentioned above. Wouldn't it be nice to ask for a "stay" one time, and then answer the door and greet your guests? Practice training *yourself* to say stay a single time, and slowly raise criteria and time as the dog is able, rather than continually saying the cue. This will give you a more useful stay for various life situations in the future.
2. Not Using a Release Word
A release word is critical when teaching your dog to stay. Your release word means "the stay is over now, you can move." Having a clearly defined release word, and only rewarding when your dog remains in place until they hear the release word, will help your dog understand what stay truly means.
Sometimes owners are in the habit of saying "come here!" or just simply clicking and rewarding when their dog is done with their stay. However, we should always train that release word so that your dog can easily be released without a clicker, or if you don't actually need to call your dog but just want to let them explore, or retrieve the ball they've been waiting to fetch! "OK" is a common choice, but we tend to say it often in our daily lives. More unique choices include "break," "free," and "all done!"
3. Always Calling the Dog
Finally, it can be really exciting as you being to add distance to your training to be in the habit of always calling your dog to you. You ask for a stay, walk away, and in the excitement of your dog staying in place, we call our dogs to us, adding in a recall practice at the same time.
While it is important to practice recalls often, in fun situations like this, we want to make it clear to our dogs that stay is not *always* a pattern of:
Happy training! What areas of "stay" do you and your dog struggle with the most? What parts go well?