Come, Sit, Stay: Train Your Dog to “Stay”

dog doing the stay command while wearing a blue plaid dog bandana

Teach a Dog to Stay: Training Your Dog to Stay

Training your dog to stay reliably is a great way to enhance their training. You can start teaching a puppy to “stay” as soon as it comes home. Once your dog masters the “stay” command, it will be able to stay through distractions and for as long as you want. The “stay” command isn’t too glamorous but is one of our most frequently used commands. Today, we’re going to look into the “Stay” command and how we proofed it to teach our dogs to stay with distractions.  This post assumes that the dog already knows a basic sit, stay, come. We found that the hardest part about teaching stay is using it in the real world and extending it to long periods of time. We can practice “stay” at home but out in the real world it is important to proof the command around distractions and not have to be concerned that the dog may get up once we’ve told them to stay.

When To Use Stay

Stay is a versatile command – when mastered, it is useful everywhere and the dog knows not to move until released. Stay can be taught to mean different things, so we will only be sharing how we use it. We use stay to indicate to Calvin that we don’t want him to move until he has an “ok.”  Stay is generally taught with the handler walking away from the dog – but in reality, we only use that example when we fly at the airport. Our most common use for stay is for Calvin to plant himself wherever we ask, even if we are remaining next to him.
Here are some of the ways that we use “stay”: At pet friendly stores, Calvin will “stay” at my feet as I sift through racks of clothing without sniffing around or exploring. At the office, Calvin will “stay” under the desk until released.  At home or restaurants, Calvin will “stay” on his bed during human meals. At crosswalks, Calvin will “stay” in place until it’s time to move. Of course, we can’t forget that Calvin holds a “stay” for every photo we take. We weren’t as concerned with Calvin doing a “Down Stay” vs. a “Sit Stay” – we don’t really care if he’s sitting or lying down as long as he isn’t moving. The actual position is up to him, and we are ok with that. Everyone’s needs are different, so for some people this distinction is important.
photo of san francisco from the top of bernal heights off leash dog park
dog running with human down the hill

Teaching your dog to stay for a long time

Once you can walk away from your pup while they are holding a stay, it’s time to take the command to the next level.  The next level means your pup will only need to be told one time and you will be able to go about your activities (including leaving the room) without them moving.

What you need

  1. Understanding of the basic stay command with a release word
  2. A Mat or towel
  3. High value treats
  4. A leash

Get Started & Practice

You will start small but eventually build up endurance so that your pup can hold an indefinite stay.
Find a way to fit practice into your daily activities and use a mat or towel to indicate where your pup needs to stay. Some good times to practice are when you are getting ready in the morning, preparing food, or during human meals. Weave the practice into your daily life – If you have a consistent practice schedule, your pup will soon master the command.


When your dog breaks a stay, bring them back to their mat and repeat the command “stay.” Do not reward them if they have broken the stay. If you find that you need too many corrections, go back to holding the stay for a short period of time (1 minute). Another option is to use a leash to restrict the dog to a certain area so they cannot break the stay.
dog using the command stay in front of a city landscape

Build up training your dog to stay for a longer

You won’t be able to go from a basic stay to 30 minutes overnight. Practice in increments until the command is mastered. Start with holding a stay for 1 minute….then 5……10…..15 ect.

Master the “Stay” Command

Check off all these scenarios to proof your prolonged stay:
  1. Hold a stay in a pet friendly store around distractions, loud noises, and passersby
  2. Hold a stay for 45 minutes at home while the humans go about with their daily life
  3. Hold a stay at a restaurant (pet friendly patio)
  4. Hold a stay during human meals at home
  5. Hold a stay outside a coffee shop (make sure you can always keep an eye on your pet)
  6. Hold a stay for 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour
  7. Throw a toy or food around your dog while they are holding their stay
  8. Hold a stay on the street while other dogs walk by

Enjoy your stay
-Your Pal Cal

training a dog to stay with a city landscape behind him