Question: I have managed to get my dog to “stay” for one full minute in one spot. How do I advance this cue so he’ll stay indefinitely?
Answer: You’re definitely on the right track with this command. As I mentioned last week, we start with one minute on the clock, meaning you have to time this cue so you’ll know exactly how long Max will stay. If you want him to stay for X period of time, you have to train for it and practice on a daily basis. Ultimately, you can replace the daily training routine and simply transition to random, periodic training to keep him fresh.
To reiterate what we talked about last week, the setup for this work entails putting your dog in a specific spot, telling him “down,” and when he drops, give him the stay hand signal, and say “Max, stay.” If he’s already looking right at you, you can skip saying his name first. We say our dog’s name to get eye contact, because without eye contact, he’s not ready to receive any cue. Again, the hand signal for ‘stay’ is a simple halt sign with the palm your hand.
So, tell him “stay,” flash the sign, and step away. As you maintain eye contact, begin pacing back and forth. If he breaks, or starts to get up, just say “No!” and step toward him. He may settle back into a "down" position. If he doesn’t lie back down but stays in his spot in a seated position, just leave it as it is. The most important thing is him staying in one spot. If he actually gets up and starts to walk away from his spot, calmly go to him, snag him by the collar, lead him back to his spot and start over.
If he’s staying, make sure to keep your eye on your watch or the timer on your phone, as you continue pacing back and forth. The second he gets to the one-minute mark, you should be back in front of him putting a treat in his mouth and praising him profusely. After 3 seconds of praising, release him with a bright “OK!” and walk away. This is his release, and he must wait until he hears you say it.
If you get your dog to stay in his spot for one minute, and he does it at least four times today, you’re ready to take the next step tomorrow. But to really dial this in, I’d suggest performing this exercise in numerous locations in your home randomly throughout the day. You really can’t overdo this training, and repetition is the key here.
If he’s accomplished his "stay" requirements for today, tomorrow advance him one minute. So if he did one minute at least four times today, tomorrow, he’s ready for two minutes on the clock. Again, the basic “requirement” is at least four repetitions in different locations, but I would definitely do it more than four times. For each exercise, be right in front of him giving him a treat and praise the second he’s done, the way I described above.
Resist the temptation to advance him more than a single minute a day. Building this slowly, one minute a day, is how you’ll build it in a rock solid fashion.
Think about it. if you work on this just a few times every day, after three weeks, he’ll be staying for more than 20 minutes in one spot, and he won’t really even know how he got to that level. To him, "staying" for 20 minutes and being rewarded for it feels exactly the same way it did on the first day at one minute.
A couple of final notes: The back and forth pacing, maintaining eye contact, tends to anchor him in his spot. And even if your dog knows “come” (which he should), for now, release him only by returning to him for the reward and release. This imprints on him how important staying glued to his spot is.
Next week: Advancing this cue to a much higher level.
Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who “teaches dogs and trains people.” Contact him at email@example.com or dogsbestfriendflorida.com.