The Puppy Training Podcast

Episode #76 Troubleshooting the Stay

September 08, 2021 Baxter & Bella Puppy Training Season 4 Episode 76
The Puppy Training Podcast
Episode #76 Troubleshooting the Stay
Show Notes Transcript

Today we are tackling stay challenges and how to troubleshoot if you are having trouble teaching your dog to stay.

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Trouble Shooting the Stay

Hello everyone! I am so glad to be back! I take a break from podcasts in the summer and winter, but try to make up for it with good tips in the fall and spring. Today we are tackling stay challenges and how to troubleshoot if you are having trouble teaching your dog to stay. 

But first, I hope you and your dogs are doing well. If you have been following along on Baxter’s training journey, I want to update you on his progress. 

Baxter is an Australian Labradoodle puppy in training to be a therapy dog. He has passed off his Basic training and is now completing Intermediate training. So if you are members of our online puppy school, we are right there with many of you, going through the same lessons and tasks. He now weighs around 40 lbs, is six months old, starting to like fetch as long as it is with a bumper in the yard - he will fetch a ball in the house - and he LOVES people. He naturally wants to put his paws over your lap and lean into you which is great for therapy work and deep tissue pressure. 

His leash skills are coming along as well and he is working hard to behave on leash even when other dogs are around. Not is all perfect though - he has reached adolescence and so things like territory matter and barking has begun. We are teaching him what TO DO when the doorbell rings and guests arrive. And, he likes to bark when playing so we are definitely trying our best to teach him it isn’t needed to play, in fact, play stops when the barking starts. 

He is a fast learner and eager to please. I am looking forward to more advanced training to come. Next steps on our therapy dog journey are to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test with a local evaluator, I have a handler course I need to take online, then we will go together around the year mark to an in-person team evaluation. We will keep you posted. I know many of you are interested in doing the same type of work with your dogs and I applaud you for it. 

Let’s dive into today’s topic - troubleshooting the stay. Stay means your dog holds a position until released. There are three main issues we address when it comes to stay and they relate to the 4D’s - distance, duration, distraction and difficulty. 

I commonly hear, “But my dog just pops right back up. They won’t stay down.” This has to do with duration. It is important to help a dog hold still. This is the first task to teach our dog when it comes to a stay - which I know some of you agree with me - when I say THAT itself can be a pretty challenging task right? 

Puppies are not so great at holding still. Dogs' brains are wired to see what they want and go get it as fast as they can. So when it comes to stay work, teaching them to wait for something good is a foreign concept to them. But it can be taught. 

We start with the shortest increment possible so as to set our dog up for success. We want them to win so easily they stay (pun intended) in the game. What does that mean? We start with a one second stay, then build to two, three, four and so on. Seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into hours. A good portion of this part of stay work is realizing the age of our dog and their maturity level. What sort of attention span do they have and helping that grow as the dog grows up.

The next issue with stay amongst many owners is the dog breaks the stay when the owner gets too far away. How far is “too far?” That depends on the dog and how successful they have been with distance training. Just as we did with duration, building second by second initially, we also build distance step by step. 

We set our dogs up for success by helping them win at the easiest possible level, then increase from there. If one complete step is too hard at first, start by only moving one foot. If moving your foot one foot is too hard, move it an inch. If one inch is too easy, shoot for somewhere in the middle - 6 inches. If that goes well, meaning you can get 5 out of 5 successes, push to more distance. You get the picture. 

Start where your dog can win so they will keep playing. Knowing where to start though is helpful as it will save you a lot of time. Don’t start with an inch if your puppy can handle a foot. Training moves much faster this way. Frustrating our dog causes them to lose interest in the task at hand and they move onto something else they would rather do. 

Finally, it is common for a dog in training to break when they sense a distraction - movement, a super yummy smell, the sight of a new person or something novel, the sound of something startling or loud, and so on. That’s right - you guessed it. We can work on introducing distractions to our dog while they are in a stay at a very low level so they win and want to keep training. 

This might be something like we hold a toy in our hand, then we drop the toy, then we bounce the toy around, then throw the toy. Can you see how starting with throwing the toy while our dog is in a down stay may be too hard? 

However, simply the sight of the toy not moving will be much easier for our dog to succeed at. On that note, what are your thoughts on holding the toy? How long should you hold the toy? The best advice I can give when working on stays is to focus on one D at a time. If you are working on distractions, keep duration and distance short. When you decide to increase distance, keep distractions and duration minimal. 

That covers the 3Ds but what about the 4th? Difficulty is when you put all the Ds together. That is when we start combining them and really upping the game in stay work. Doing this type of training, bit by bit, ensures our dogs one enjoy the work, and two are successful at holding stays no matter what is going on around them. 

This is all taught with positive reinforcement and helps the dog have fun interacting with us. It gives them a job to do - just think of all the things your dog cannot be doing when holding a stay. Wow! They can’t be jumping on guests, counter surfing, jumping on sofas, peeing in your house, barking out the window - can you see the value in training your dog to do specific tasks like stay? I can. 

So happy to share these tips with you today and hope you learned something new or heard something you are now saying, “Hey, I want to go try that!” If you need help training your dog to stay, my team of trainers and I are happy to help. Join our online puppy school where we meet with you one-on-one in video sessions to help you achieve your training goals. Learn more at

Thanks for listening! I’ll talk to you next week.