Watch! Lucy Heath's Dog Masterclass: Teaching Stay
As a professional dog trainer, Lucy Heath knows firsthand that you absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks.
In her eight-part Masterclass Series, Lucy shows us how positive reinforcement is done, opening the way for a whole lot of fun for you and your dog. Lucy's dog advice models kind dog training and you will be able to do your own dog obedience training at home.
In this series of Dog Masterclasses, Lucy teaches us how to train our dogs from the basics to the more advanced. In this video, she teaches ‘Stay’ and ‘Wait’.
All of the dog behaviour training taught here is useful in everyday life, especially when it comes to things like vet visits and grooming.
3 Steps to train your dog to 'Stay'
These 3 steps together make for the perfect ‘Stay’. You will need some tasty treats and your dog’s favourite toy.
Step #1: Duration
This is the skill that tests how long your dog can sit in front of you, with nothing else going on and you being right next to them.
A: Extend the 'Sit'
The easiest place to start from is the 'Sit' position.
Instead of rewarding your dog the minute that they sit, as we did when we taught them to 'Sit'. Here we need to build a 'Stay' - you need to delay the reward. Try counting in your head for 3 seconds and if he’s still in place, then reward him.
B: Make the duration of the Sit longer
Now build up to more seconds, try counting in your head for 5 seconds before you reward them.
C: Keep it interesting
Vary the number of seconds you expect your dog to sit and ‘Stay’ for.
Let the count creep up to 10 seconds but then next time keep it short, count for only 2 seconds. This keeps your dog from guessing and from getting bored.
Once you’ve both had lots of practice and your dog can reliably ‘Stay’ for 10 seconds without moving, it's time to add the word.
D: Time to add the word 'Stay'
Add the word at the end of the behaviour. You don’t want to risk saying the word first and then have them walk off.
Valuable tip: Don't let them make a mistake!
Eventually, with lots of repetition and practice, you’ll be able to say the word first. But don’t go for too long and always keep an eye on whether your dog is getting a bit antsy as they're then likely to move. You always want to go back and reward them before they make a mistake. If they do make a mistake, just start again. Go for a little bit of a shorter ‘Stay’ the next time.
Step #2: Distance
If your dog can do a 30 second ‘Stay’ in front of you, it's time to work on moving away from our dog.
Start with a side step and keep the ‘Stay’s’ nice and short. To begin with, you don’t want to just walk backward from your dog, that would usually draw him to follow and come towards you. Rather begin by taking a few little SIDE steps.
Take some small side steps and say, 'Yes! Good boy!' (or Girl) Then give them a treat. If they're finding that easy and they're not moving then try leaning back on one of your legs, leaning back a little further each time. If all’s going well, start taking little baby steps away from them.
Say ‘Stay’ and take 3 small steps. Don’t walk backward too quickly as that will only draw them towards you, you don't want to force them to make a mistake. As you build on the distance remember to always be fast to reward your dog. You might even throw the treat to them.
Step #3: Distractions
Try some unusual things to make sure he really understands to ‘Stay’.
It's time to test their 'Stay'. Stand right next to your dog and expect a very short ‘Stay’.
Do something that might normally excite him and make him want to jump up. Show him that he knows his ‘Stay’. Start by doing calm things like turning your back on him and making sure he stays put, then build it up to something sillier, like star jumps.
1. Turn your back on your dog
2. Jump up and down on the spot
3. Pretend to pick something off the floor
Don't forget to reward your dog each time they get it right.
You can build up to a really difficult action like dropping food on the floor which will really test his ‘Stay’ under any circumstance. Eventually, with lots of practice, you can tie all 3 sections together. So, you can be at a distance and he can ‘Stay’ for 30 seconds with something dropped on the floor.
How to train your dog to 'Wait'
Teaching your dog to ‘Wait’ is similar to teaching ‘Stay’, but they have two different meanings. ‘Stay’’ means: Stay where you are until I come back to release you. ‘Wait’ means: Hold on… I’m going to ask you to do something else.
With ‘Wait’ you may use it to make sure they have manners before going through a door or while you put their food bowl down and then release them to eat their dinner. You do want to make sure that you sometimes go back and reward the ‘Wait’ otherwise they might lose it if they always think you’re going to ask them to do something else.
I hope you found this information useful. Check out more dog masterclasses with Lucy Heath.
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