Are You Unknowingly Ruining Your Dogs Stay Cue

The stay cue is one of those basics that most people teach (or try to teach) their dogs, but timing and consistency can make or break how well your dog manages this cue.
Dogs are smart, and they really do just want to do what you ask of them (most of the time!). But sometimes we give our dogs the wrong signals, conflicting signals, and they just don’t know what it is that we actually want.
The stay cue really revolves around one thing – PATIENCE. Patience is so important, it’s one of my 7 Canine Commandments. If you don’t have my book, I’d recommend getting a copy here: 
It’s inevitable that your dog will stand up when you’re working on a stay cue, and honestly, we need that to happen. Not because we need to correct it, we don’t, but because we need to reward when they do get it right. 
I like to start out with a single second at first. Ask for a stay, as long as your dog doesn’t flinch or move immediately, mark and reward. If your dog does flinch or move, no biggie, we disengage. Give your dog a break and try again. Mark and reward the appropriate behavior for what you’ve asked.
Gradually increase the time between cue and reward. 

You Need To Be Patient Too

When you ask your dog for a sit or a stay, let them give it to you. Too often I see people ask for a sit or stay and then immediately get their dog up to train something else. Big no-no. Practice your patience here and let your dog settle in and process their behavior and your cue. Give them time to understand what you’re asking, what they are doing, and relate the two together. Asking them to move away from the stay too quickly is asking your dog to be as impatient as you are. 

Make Room For Mistakes

100% of the time there will be mistakes. Period. It’s ok. In fact, it’s necessary. It’s easy to anticipate your dog coming out of their stay and quickly ask them to do something else to avoid the feeling of failure.
First, understand that it’s not failure. Your dog is learning and mistakes are necessary to learning. When you see your dog about to break a stay (or any other) cue and pre-empt it with another cue, you are in effect ruining the stay cue. You are teaching your dog that stay is temporary and to be followed up quickly with some other behavior. 
Dogs are excellent at anticipating what we want, so the best thing to do, if your dog is getting impatient with the stay cue, is to pause training, resume at a later time and go back to the amount of time your dog can do with a stay cue and start adding seconds from there. Reward only when your dog can maintain the stay!

Quit Begging

Begging is quite unbecoming. Heck, we don’t want our dogs to beg, so why would we do it? 
It happens all the time, we ask our dog to stay and we keep telling them to stay.  It can be quite confusing for your dog and take your training back a few steps because that’s not the point of the stay cue. 
When we ask for a stay, we should then be able to remain calm and quiet. We expect that of them, we need to expect it of ourselves too. 
Again, we are anticipating that our dog won’t be able to stay. Give them the opportunity! Let them think and process what we’re asking of them. Give them the opportunity to make mistakes and learn!
Once we ask for a stay, we shouldn’t speak again until we either release them or if they do break the stay, asking them to go back into a stay – but again, only if they do in fact break the stay.


No one is expected to be super confident immediately, but we have to remember that our dogs feed off of us and our emotions. Go into the training session knowing that you both are going to rock it! 

The 3 D’s

With any cue, we have to remember the 3 D’s of dog training  –  Duration  –  Distance  –  Distraction
When we begin training a new cue, we work in seconds, but over time we want to increase the amount of time, in this case, your dog can maintain the cue. 
Then we need to add distance, meaning we need to take a step back, then another step back, then another and another. Remember to reward each step of the way.
Finally, we can start adding in distraction.
The truth is that training never ends. Even once we get to a point where our dog can do something well, we need to continue to reinforce that behavior regularly and in new and different environments. 
Always remember that you get out of it what you put into it, so if you aren’t filling the cup regularly there won;t be anything in there to pull out when you need it!

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