How to Teach a Dog to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide

By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

How to Teach a Dog to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide
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How to Teach a Dog to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Learning how to teach a dog to stay is one of those basic dog training skills that comes in handy for both you and Fido. On your end, it helps you maintain control in all kinds of scenarios. You can use it while playing a game of hide-and-seek, or if you drop a glass in your kitchen and want to protect your pup’s paws while you grab the vacuum.

The stay command also helps curb you dog’s impulse behaviors, which is especially important for puppies. As adorable as they are, puppies aren’t born with the best manners and sometimes their impulses outweigh their sense of safety or concern for those around them.

We spoke with certified dog trainers to explain how to teach a dog to stay so you can both rest easier.

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Supplies for Teaching a Dog to Stay

✓A quiet space

✓Training treats for dogs, like Zuke's Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe treats

✓15 to 30 minutes per day



How to Teach a Dog to Stay

Whether you’re eager to learn how to teach a puppy to stay or training an adult dog, the following step-by-step guide works like a charm.

how to teach a dog to stayhow to teach a dog to stay

1 Start in a quiet space.

It’s important to choose a safe and quiet space when teaching your dog the stay command, especially when starting out. Any sort of distraction—including sounds, movements and scents—can disrupt your progress.
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2 Have your dog sit.

Ask your dog to “Sit.” If your pup hasn’t already learned the sit command, our experts recommend postponing the stay command and teaching sit first. If your dog isn’t sitting, it is almost impossible to get them to stay. Learn how to teach a dog to sit here.
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3 Reward your dog after they sit a few seconds.

Once your dog sits, don’t give them a reward right away. Wait a few seconds first. Then you can reward your dog with training treats, an enthusiastic response, or scratches, rubs and pats—whatever makes your dog the happiest. Check out the best dog treats at Chewy to see our favorite training rewards!
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4 Repeat, but increase the delay.

Ask your dog to sit again, but this time wait a few more seconds before giving them a reward. Do this several more times, each time increasing the delay between the sit command and their reward by three to five seconds. Keep gradually increasing the length of time until you hit at least 15 seconds.
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5 Introduce the stay command.

Repeat the above steps until your dog can hold their sit for at least 15 seconds. At this time, you can begin using the dog stay command. Simply say, “Sit” and wait for them to sit, then say, “Stay.” Make sure to use a clear and confident voice, and always give your dog a treat to reward their obedience!
Pro Tip: Learning to stay put is tricky, especially if your dog is easily distracted. Keep with it and remain patient. Our experts recommend spending about 15 to 30 minutes every day practicing this stay cue until your dog reliably follows the stay command.
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6 Introduce the release command.

Now it’s time to introduce the release command. Start by telling your dog to sit, then after 15 seconds have elapsed, give your release command and toss some training treats so your pup must get up to retrieve them. A release command might be a hand signal—such as lifting your hand up—or the words “OK” or “Go.”
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7 Make it more challenging.

Once you know how to teach a dog to stay, you can up the ante. For example, you can add distance between you when giving the command or having them hold the dog stay command for longer. Also, once your dog has a firm grasp of this cue, you can begin using it in everyday scenarios, like on walks.

Things to Avoid

Learning how to teach a dog to stay requires lots of patience from all parties involved. Start with small bursts, reward your dog handsomely, and remain positive. Here’ what not to do:

  • Don’t Get Frustrated: If you find yourself losing patience, step back and try again tomorrow. Don’t try to rush the process.
  • Don’t Make them Stay for Long Periods: The stay command is meant for relatively short periods of time to keep your dog out of harm’s way. To foster meaningful trust between you and your pup, never use the stay command for extended periods of time. For example, you wouldn’t want to give the dog stay command when you are leaving the house to run errands for a few hours, or if you’re getting ready to take a long shower or bath.
  • Avoid Unsafe Situations: Only have your dog sit in safe situations. For example, they shouldn’t be left alone at a dog park or near a busy street.

How to Teach a Dog to Stay FAQs


Can I teach my dog to stay without treats?


You can technically teach a dog to stay without using treats if there is something else your dog finds highly motivating that is practical to use as rewards—such as a chin or ear scratch. But many dogs are highly food motivated. For that reason, your training efforts may go much further with a tasty treat in hand.

If you’re concerned about giving your pup too many calories, you could try a low-calorie alternative like ice, fresh fruit or unsweetened applesauce. Also note that many training treats are already tiny, so that helps curb the overeating issue. Another option is to use their kibble, which you were going to feed them anyway.


Can I teach a senior dog to stay?

A:Yes, you can teach a senior dog to stay. While learning how to teach a puppy to stay might seem easier, that’s not always the case. Puppies are easily distracted, which can make teaching them a new trick more, well, tricky!

When teaching a senior dog to stay, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. For example, if your dog has any hearing or vision issues then accommodate those issues during training. Our experts recommend using a light touch on your dog in addition to a release word to help dogs with sight or hearing issues. Alternatively, you can use a flash of light as a release cue.

While training your senior dog, it might also be beneficial to have them use a comfortable bed for their stay position. This can keep them happy and more focused if they've got arthritis or other health issues.


Can I use another command word instead of stay?

A:You can use any word you want for the stay cue since your dog doesn't know what the word means before you start training. However, our experts recommend using a short word or phrase and being consistent when using it to avoid confusion. The same goes for your release word.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right motivator is a key part of how to teach a dog to stay. Without the proper incentive, your puppy will choose to stay by your side as opposed to staying put. Also, remember that teaching any of these basic commands takes patience, time and consistency. All that effort will pay off!

Expert input provided by Kim Kurland, a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and founder of PAWSitive Hound Dog Training in Tarzana, Calif., as well as Paula Nowak, owner, head trainer and behavior consultant for Canine Country Academy in Georgia.


By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated: