Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Dog owner teaching black the stay command

The essentials

  • “Stay” is a fairly simple command to train — Much of the dog training process for this command involves consistency and verbal cues. Don’t overcomplicate it!
  • Make your training sessions count — Use our training tips to get the most out of each session. Short, impactful, and positive is the way to go.
  • Practice in a range of settings — Give your dog plenty of practice with different scenarios, places, and distractions. This will make the command a natural step for your pal that’s instinct over time.

The secret for learning how to teach a dog to stay is, essentially, to practice the stay command frequently and reward your pet with positive reinforcement. Do this repetitively over time in short and sweet sessions, keeping your pet engaged for 5-10 minutes at a time. Then, be sure to reward them with lots of pets and treats. We promise -dog training is really that simple (and fun)!

The best part of training your dog to stay? Dog owners can use this style of training whether you have a puppy or a senior. Here’s what else you need to know about teaching your dog the sit and stay command sequence, and the small steps you can take to make your process as simple as possible.

First things first: Preparing to teach a dog to stay 

While these aren’t mandatory additions, there are several different items to consider adding to your training repertoire to make training a seamless process for both of you. We recommend:

  • A clicker. This helps your dog create a positive association with certain types of behavior (like staying on command). They’re a few dollars from your local pet store or Amazon and can be used for clicker training the sit-stay command sequence and plenty of others.
  • Training treats. These treats are generally low-calorie and delicious and can be used to keep your dog’s attention throughout the session.
  • Positivity. Come prepared with patience, calmness, and enthusiasm for the learning process. You can showcase this using a happy tone or using positive body language (and verbal language). An example of this would be “Good stay!” or something similar.

While it may feel tough at times, both you and your furry friend are capable of learning how to teach a dog to stay — and executing it well. Here are a few other tips to consider as you plan out your training sessions:

Limit distractions — Ideally, both you and your pet will train in a distraction-free area where you can more easily focus. Once you master the command with your pal, you can practice it in different settings. Working this way can build your pet’s tolerance for distractions over time.

Set a dedicated, consistent training time — Pets, like babies, thrive on routine. Instead of sporadic training schedules, set aside dedicated time to teach your dog . You can do this by choosing the same place to train (such as a room in your house) and training off of a specific word and hand signal. After your pet gets the idea, you can teach them new commands or practice in a variety of situations. Staying consistent is a great way to encourage quick mastery of whatever skill you’re teaching them.

Be patient and positive — Dogs are very attuned to how we feel as humans and may react based on what they perceive from us. Staying patient and positive can get you some seriously great returns later on in your training process. Not sure where to start? Verbal praise is always a good option, or you can introduce special training time toys or after-training activities for your dog to look forward to, such as a trip to the dog park.

Read up on any necessary prep work — Different dogs may have different needs. For example, hard-of-hearing or deaf dogs may need hand signals to accompany commands throughout the teaching process. Experts also find that using a hand signal or release cue in addition to verbal commands is a good way to solidify command training for your pet. Planning and choosing which ones you’ll use consistently across training sessions will make your time more impactful.

🎉 Bonus tip: Define a clear beginning and end of the session for your pet. Professional dog trainers do this by pairing verbal commands like “release” or “OK” with positive reinforcement, giving both to the dog once the action is complete. Doing this further cements what the command means to your dog, signaling a distinct start and end of the action.

Step 1: Assume the position 

Before your dog can stay, they usually have to sit. This step helps your dog understand that they won’t be going anyplace anytime soon (or at least until after the “release” command is called!) Have your dog learn to sit before moving forward in the training process, and reward them for their obedience with some love and a tasty treat.

👍 Haven’t learned “sit” yet? No problem — but you may want to wait to teach your pet this command. It’s best to use “stay” as a follow-up command to “sit,” as sit is a more basic command for many pets to learn. 

Step 2: Do it again — and add a few steps

Command your pet to “sit” again, working in a delay before rewarding them for obedience. Repeat this and increase the delay by a few seconds each time. This should get your dog comfortable with sitting and waiting for your next command, which is a great segue into the “stay” and “release” pairing.

👁️ Once your dog gets good at “sit”, practice breaking eye contact after they obey. This alone is a form of gratification, connection, and reward for your pet, which may signal that the command is “done successfully.” By breaking this, you tell them that there’s more coming, and to stay alert. 

Step 3: Start with the “stay” command 

For many pet parents, this first “stay” will be the first time that your pet has heard the command — but that doesn’t mean it has to be overwhelming! Try to be as clear and firm as you can, showcasing confidence and control as you go. Start with short windows of “stay” time at first (even if it’s only for a second or two), and build as you practice the command.

Don’t forget — you can pair the verbal command with a physical cue as well, such as holding your hand up or crossing your hands; placing one hand over the other in an “X” shape. Doing this can be helpful, even if your pet isn’t deaf or hard of hearing. You can simply build a positive association with both verbal and physical commands.

By doing this now, you can choose to use either form of the command later on, making it easier to navigate social situations.

Step 4: Tinker and test 

Once your furry friend gets good at staying, repeat the process and take a few steps back. See if they’ll remain in the position for at least a few seconds. If they do, -continue, lengthening the time in the command and stepping back further. You can build on this skill and extend the distance to be as far as you like. If they can’t, continue to practice until they can — and reward liberally with positive reinforcement and treats in either case.

Step 5: Introduce “release” 

The release command is fairly simple and serves a single purpose – telling your dog it’s OK to return to doing what they were doing. Since it signals a natural end, it also encourages your dog to stay in the position until you tell them otherwise — making your training sessions more effective once the command is learned.

We recommend teaching release with helpful hand signals, which can be as simple as a thumbs up or a clap. Once again, this allows you to use either signal in the future and creates more of an association for your dog over time, which may also come in handy for aging dogs dealing with hearing loss

Step 6: Practice proofing

Proofing is a simple way to ensure that your dog is confident in the next step before continuing. It helps you to pace your training and ensures that your dog is comfortable throughout every stage of learning.

Here are some graduated milestones that you should consider proofing for:

  • Distractions. They’re everywhere — and our dogs love to live in the present, active moment. Proof for these ahead of time before proceeding to the next step, giving both you and your dog the confidence to continue. Start by learning how to teach a dog to stay in the yard, and work from there. Birds and car noises can be easy daily distractions that your dog can learn to ignore.too
  • Duration. It can be difficult for dogs to focus on anything for an extended time. Proofing for duration ensures that your pet knows that they may be required to perform for certain durations of time that vary.
  • Distance. You don’t want your pet to be reliant on your presence. Proofing for distance ensures that you can be as far away as you need to be while your pet continues to obey — which can come in handy if you’re out and about and have to step away. If you’re not sure where to start, learn how to teach a dog to stay in the yard and work from there, stepping back a few more feet after each successful proof.

Other tips for teaching your dog to stay 

Here are our expert-approved tips to make your training time as effective as possible. We’re here to help!

Don’t be afraid of repetition — You’re not annoying your pet by repeating the command sequence over and over again. Practicing a specific position or movement until it becomes a habit is a great way to empower your pet to get it right each time, without stressing them out by training against a range of half-learned commands.

Build up your training times over time — If training is completely new to your pet, they may have a hard time focusing. Instead of starting with a ten-minute session, you can start with a two-minute sprint — building up to long periods over time. The important part to focus on here is repetition and giving your dog plenty of exercise and practice with one specific command. While there is no “easy way” to train, honing down on a single new command in short, focused bursts is often the best way for many pet parents.

Use commands together as your dog continues to master them — You can build up from a single starting position (like “sit”) and work into a down-stay combination command as your dog masters each new command.

When to seek professional help with the training process

Sometimes, your furry friend might need a little extra help for lessons to stick. Here are a few signs that might signal a need for some professional intervention by seasoned trainers and specialists.

  • Destructive or aggressive behavior . Dogs can exhibit this differently, ranging from tearing up things to biting and nipping. Your trainer can help provide your dog with alternative means of communication in these cases and can let you know if veterinary support is needed.
  • Excessive barking. This can be a sign of nervousness or bad behavior and can be corrected with the help of a seasoned specialist.
  • Separation anxiety. If your pet is experiencing disinterest, a lack of focus, or other less-than-desirable behavior, they may be experiencing separation anxiety. You can seek help from a professional trainer, dog behaviorist, or veterinarian.

Teaching your dog to stay is a great way to help keep them safe in new situations. As you begin the training process, be sure to start small and slow, working in focused bursts of time and rewarding your pet with each act of obedience. If you need help, you can work with licensed trainers and your veterinarian. You can also consult our extensive betterpet training articles collection.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to train a dog to stay?

Dogs learn on their own time. Your pet may take a few days, weeks, or months to master a command. Sodon’t feel like you have to rush the process! Instead, focus on making each training session as effective as possible, working in short, focused sessions for the best possible result.

How do you tell if your dog respects you?

Dogs often view their owners as a “pack leader” of sorts. You can tell if they respect you if they don’t act aggressive or guarded toward you. You’ll also be able to see it with continued obedience as they go through the training process.

Why is it important to train a dog to stay?

Training a dog to stay is a good way to keep them safe in unfamiliar situations. It can also be useful if you have to step away while in public, and cannot take the dog with you.

What is the dog command for stay?

A simple command of “stay” is often enough for your pet to learn the command. It’s best to pair “stay” with a visual cue, such as holding an open palm up toward your dog or snapping your fingers.

How do I train my dog to stay on my property?

You can begin the process of teaching them to sit first, moving to a “sit-stay” combo once your dog gets that down.