How-to: Training your Dog to Stay – Using the Three D’s (Duration, Distance and Distractions)

April 12, 2014


  1. You must first teach your dog the sit or lay down command in order to teach stay. Start by putting your dog into the position you would like him/her to stay in (use your sit, down or stand commands) and stand directly in front of him.

  2. Tell your dog “stay” and put your hand out as if you were to signal stop. Give your dog 1-3 seconds and if your dog is still in the position you originally put them in then you can reward your dog. In the beginning, you are looking to reward the behavior of staying, so even if your dog stayed for only 1 - 3 seconds that is still a good start

  3. As soon as you give your praise and treat, the behavior is over and you can encourage your dog to “break” or “release” (this is your signal for your dog to release from his stay). It is important to incorporate a release type word so your dog doesn’t automatically decide to move when they feel like it.

  4. Once your dog is able to stay in a sit or down position for 20-30 seconds without changing position then you are ready to add a bit of distance. You will want to use a leash and collar as a tool when adding any sort of distance.

  5. Ask your dog to sit/down, then tell them to “stay” very calmly and firmly and use your hand signal out in front of you. Holding the leash, back up a few steps from your dog, give the dog 1-3 seconds then quickly go back into your dog and reward before they get up.

  6. Release your dog and repeat step 5 until you can be a few steps back for 30 seconds. Once your dog can sit and stay for 30 seconds at only a few steps back, go the length of the 6 foot leash and work your way up to 30 seconds again. And then again at longer distances.

  7. The trick to establishing a solid stay is to not push your dog too quickly. You always want to work on DURATION then DISTANCE and lastly, DISTRACTIONS and only add one variable at a time. Meaning, you do not want to walk too far away before building up time. You should only be adding distance once your dog has a solid stay at the shorter distance for at least 30 seconds.


TIPS: When you are first teaching stay, always go back to your dog and reward them while they are still staying and do not call them to you, and always make sure you reward your dog quickly. You can eventually call your dog to you but not while you are first establishing a “stay”.


When first starting out, do these exercises in low distraction areas such as inside the home or yard. Before working on these exercises outside of the home or yard, add distractions first which will help ease distractions once out in the real world later.


Once you are able to move further than the length of the leash, please only do this in a safe area where your dog cannot escape, especially important when you start adding extra-long distances.


If you truly want to challenge your dog and become an expert at staying, then work at getting your dog to sit or down stay for 2-3 minutes.


A game you can play with your dog to reinforce the "stay" command is hide and seek. This game is heaps of fun and all you do is place your dog in a down-stay then go and hide. When you are ready, sing out your release command and your dog will set off to track you down. Make sure to give plenty of praise when they find you.

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