Show Me The Love! – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

There’s nothing more frustrating than asking your dog to stay, only to have him decide to get up five seconds later, without being released.  Many times, the cause of this is merely confusion.  Your dog may not understand the difference between a brief “wait” and a longer “stay”.  Here are some training tips that might help both of you not get frustrated with each other.

Wait

This is not a “stay” command. This is a temporary command that means “Don’t move.  Keep your attention on me, because I am about to give you another command.”  This is a very useful command that you will utilize in everyday life. For example, you can use this command when you are opening the car door and need to move something out of the way before your dog jumps in.

To train it, put your dog in a sit and say “Wait.” After about a second, say “Good wait” and give him a treat. You will increase the time between the “wait” command and the dispensing of the treat by a few seconds each session. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to give the “wait” command and have your dog keep his position while watching you and waiting for the next command.  Don’t forget to release from the wait. You can praise him as you release, but you don’t want to give a treat on release. You want the “wait” command to be associated with the treat, not with the release.  Choose a “release word” such as “free” or “break”.  You should preferably use a word that you won’t accidentally say when you don’t want to release your dog, such as “okay”.  Don’t put your dog in a “wait” and leave the room; this is not what “wait” is for.  “Wait” is a temporary command that should be followed by another command.

Once your dog has mastered the “wait” when you are standing close to him, start adding distance. Add a little more distance during each training session, but always stay within his line of sight. Remember that the “wait” command tells him that he needs to keep his attention on you until you give him another command.

Stay

This one is a bit tricky. You can’t expect a puppy to stay for too long. Don’t train this until your puppy is mature enough to “wait” for an extended period of time. This leads me to another extremely important point: always set your pup up to succeed. Don’t push the limits by trying to train too much, too soon. All training sessions should leave him wanting more training sessions, not leave either of you feeling frustrated and confused.  Interspersing playing with training—blurring the lines, as it were—will leave him eagerly looking forward to the next training session.

The “stay” command must not be trained until the dog fully understand the extended “wait” command. After all, “stay” is just a long “wait.” You should not release your pup from a “stay” at a distance. A “stay” means “wait here until I come back to you,” period. Your pup does not have to give you attention while he’s waiting, and he doesn’t have to be on the alert; he just has to stay. He can relax and think about what he’s going to wear to puppy school next Wednesday, but he has to stay where you’ve left him. To release from a “stay”, walk back to your dog and touch him as you use the release word. That way, there is no confusion about the fact that the “stay” is over.

While the “wait’ command can be given with your pup in any position—standing or sitting, for example—the “stay” command should really only be used while he is in a sit or down. Also, feel free to leave the room while the dog is in a “stay.” Just make sure you don’t forget about him and leave him there interminably, unable to reach the remote control, wondering what the stock market is doing. Remember to always release from the “stay” command—always.

Teaching and maintaining a clear distinction between these two commands will save you a world of annoyance.