The 4 D’s of Stay
1. Distance. Distance is the amount of steps that you take away from your dog. When we work with distance we will step away and immediately back to our dog. Start with just one or 2 steps or even just your upper body moving away from your dog since our movement often is a signal to our dogs that its time to go into another room or outside.
2. Duration. Duration is the amount of time that we ask our dogs to stay. When we initially work on duration we will stand right in front of our dogs without any movement and ask them to stay for a few seconds at a time. We will build on this behavior and eventually be able to add duration to distance.
3. Direction. Direction is the direction of our body in correlation to our dog. Too often when working on stay people will just walk backwards while maintaining eye contact with their dog and then when they try to use stay to answer the door and they break that eye contact or turn their body, the dog gets up. This is because the dog has learned that the change in body direction or the lack of eye contact is a signal to them that the behavior has ended. When we teach stay we want to work on removing our eye contact and changing our body positioning. Start by simply looking away or turning your body just a quarter turn away. We will build on this to be able to add direction to duration and distance.
4. Distraction. Distraction is all of the sights, sounds, and movement around you and your dog during training. Some distraction is inevitable depending where you are practicing, but a lot of it can be controlled when you are working at home. Distraction can be the hardest variable to add into the stay cue so we want to make sure its done gradually and mindfully. Think of normal situations that you want your dog to be able to stay in and break down that environment with the sounds and sights to add them in one at a time. When working with sounds, start on lower volume to not get your dog too excited. When working with sights, slower moving things will help your dog to be more successful.
Step 1. Choose whether you will be working with distance, duration, or direction first then ask your dog to sit or lie down. They can be on their bed or mat or just in the middle of the room.
Step 2. Once they are in the position you would like, use an open palm as your hand signal and say “stay” once. Then count one or two seconds or take a half step back and immediately forward and then click and treat if your dog does not move.
Step 3. Slowly build up the behavior by increasing the amount of time they are staying or the distance you move away or the direction you turn your body. If your dog gets up before you have clicked and treated, its not a big deal! Simply lower your criteria and restart the cue.
Step 4. The more you practice the more distraction you will be able to gradually add in. Consider adding in noises like soft clapping, moving your arms, grabbing the door handle, or other things that may normally get your puppy a little excited to increase the difficulty.