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  • Liz MacHaffie

Stay: Intermediate

Updated: Oct 18



Once your dog can hold a "sit", "down", or "stand" with you in front of them, they're ready to add new challenges!

We can train a great stay with “the 5 D’s”:


1. Duration

2. Distance

3. Direction

4. Disappearing

5. Distraction

Try to train one “D” at a time. You can combine them as your dog perfects them :)


1. Duration

Increase the time that your dog can “stay” for.

  • Once your dog has learned a position, you can begin increasing the duration between the times you mark/treat.

  • Repeat your mark ("yes" or click) and treat between 1 and 6 times after you cue your dog. Your dog should stay in position the whole time. If he gets up, encourage him back into position.

  • Begin lengthening the time between each mark/reward. For example, you may have needed to mark and treat every 1-2 seconds. Now, try for 3-5 seconds, then 7-10 seconds.

  • Mark and treat quickly enough that he can hold position.

  • If your dog gets up, cue the behavior again, but do not give a treat until you have re-counted the same number of seconds he was working on. (Otherwise, he'll learn it is faster to break position to get a treat!)

  • Release with “okay” and encourage your dog to get up.

  • If he makes two mistakes in a row, make the next repetition easier. Build on success :)

  • Once your dog can hold position for 10 seconds between treats, you’ll change how you reward! We want to keep him motivated, and it’s not very motivating if things just get harder and harder. Throw in some easy ones! Sometimes reward at 5 seconds, then 15, then 8, then 14, and so on. Keeping it unpredictable once he has the concept will keep him engaged and motivated.

  • Gradually increase the maximum time your dog can go while keeping his rewards unpredictable.

  • You can continue to increase your time from here, going up to several minutes if you so choose. (Pro tip, if you'd like your dog to stay for more than 30 seconds total, use "down" instead of "sit"!)

2. Distance

Increase how far you can move away from your dog.

  • This teaches your dog to stay when you turn your back and walk away. (You don’t have to worry about facing him all the time and repeating “stay……stay…..staaaaay….!)

  • Start by having your dog in a down-stay. (Down is easiest, followed by sit, and then stand. Teach all behaviors in a down-stay first.)

  • Pivot so that it looks as if you are about to turn and walk away.

  • As soon as you have turned away from your dog, mark and turn back to treat. (You should be marking while you are facing away from your dog, but it's okay to look over your shoulder!)

  • Repeat at least 3 times and release your dog.

  • Now, you’ll gradually increase your distance! At each point, mark when you are as far away as you are going to be, then return all the way to your dog to feed. Here are some suggested steps:

  • 1 step away

  • 2 steps away

  • 3 steps away

  • 5 steps away

  • 7 steps away

  • 10 steps away**

  • **Once your dog is doing well at 10-15 steps, change it up! Sometimes go only 5 feet, then 20, then 8, then 14, and so on. Keeping it unpredictable once he has the concept will keep him engaged and motivated. The idea is to gradually increase the average distance and the maximum distance. You can continue to increase your distance from here, going up to hundreds of feet if you so choose.

3. Direction

Teach your dog to stay no matter what direction you go.

  • Your dog can stay in place even if you walk in different directions.

  • To help him learn this, start walking a circle around your dog and gradually increase how far around him you go.

  • Start with your dog in a down-stay.

  • Take ONE step to the right of your dog, mark, and return to the front of him to give the treat.

  • Repeat at least 3 times, or until your dog is at least 80% successful.

  • Slowly increase your distance:

  • Go to the right side of your dog, mark, and then return to front to feed.

  • Go just past the right side of your dog, mark, and then return to front to feed.

  • Go directly behind your dog, mark, and then return the same way you came, to return and feed.

  • Go directly behind your dog, mark, and then finish by completing your circle around him.

  • While teaching this, always return to the front of your dog and face him square on when you give the food. This will help to keep him from getting up or turning. (If you don't particularly care, that's okay, feed him wherever is comfortable for you!)

4. Disappearing

Teach your dog to stay even if he can’t see you!

  • To do this, we start with very brief moments of going out of sight, marking while we are out of sight, and then returning to feed.

  • Start with your dog in a down-stay near a barrier you can hide behind (such as a doorway).

  • Walk away and disappear for 1 to 2 seconds, mark while you are out of sight, and then return to feed your dog.

  • Repeat at least 3 times or until he is at least 80% successful.

  • Gradually increase the time you disappear for.

  • Do this in the same fashion as you did distance. Once you hit 10-15 seconds, begin varying how long you disappear as you increase your average and your maximum times.

  • Try to keep an eye on your dog so that you can immediately interrupt and re-cue the behavior if he breaks.

5. Distraction

Teach your dog to stay when interesting things are going on around him.

  • This is also called “proofing” and it helps our dogs learn to listen in distraction.

  • To do this, gradually increase the distractions around your dog while he is in a stay.

  • Jog or run away from your dog 10-15 feet.

  • If your dog stays, mark and return to reinforce, then repeat.

  • If your dog breaks, re-cue and try again.

  • If your dog makes a mistake twice, make it easier!

  • If your dog is successful 3 times, make it harder! Run faster and/or longer! Start running around him.

  • Other distractions you can add in are: dogs, food, people, toys being thrown, etc.

  • If your dog breaks, don’t let him interact with or have the things he was distracted by!

  • If your dog does not break, you can release and allow him interaction/contact with the thing he wanted as a reward! (Where appropriate.)

  • Keep in mind that if you are not next to your dog and a person or dog approaches your dog to interact, or something scares him, it is unfair to expect him to remain in a stay. If you see a person or dog making a bee-line for your dog, release him or ask the person to call off their dog.

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