By Dianna Young
A common complaint that I hear from dog owners is, “My dog consistently breaks a ‘stay.’”
The stay is a very valuable command to have in your repertoire, and it’s worth teaching your dog how to do it right. We want the animal to understand that “stay” means no movement; none whatsoever. No movement of the feet. No scratching of the ear. No rolling on the back. No crawling on the tummy.
You will begin the lessons with on-lead coaching, and when a correction is necessary you should administer it immediately through the lead. A common mistake among many owners is to put the dog in a “sit,” or perhaps in a “down” position, direct it to stay and, when the dog gets ready to implement a break to warn it verbally. “Ah ah ah,” the handler will say. That may hold the animal for a few moments, and when it prepares to break again, the handler repeats the warning. The warning perhaps will be followed, or perhaps not, by a correction through the lead. Even if a correction follows, however, it comes too late.
What should happen is that every time the dog begins thinking about breaking the stay – and you can tell when it’s about to happen by his body-language – there should be no warning, simply a correction administered immediately.
When we continue to warn about a correction but fail to follow through, we demonstrate to the dog is that staying is an option wspan style=hich is negotiable to some extent. That is not the message we intend to send.
After your dog learns the basics of the stay while sitting or lying at your side, you will want to step away from him while requiring him to remain in place. When you do this, always return to the animal and take your place beside him before releasing him from the stay. Do not walk away from the dog and then call him to you, because it contradicts what you are trying to teach. Coming to you from a stay is something you can work toward down the road. But initially you are trying to teach a basic concept, and the basic concept is no movement. You should teach only one concept at a time. After your dog has mastered the fundamentals, you can add more complexity to the task.
When I put a dog into a stay, I personally use a combination of hand signal, foot signal and verbal command – all three together. A foot signal? Yes, sometimes we forget that we have four hands; or four feet, depending on how you look at it. It matters not to your dog which appendage his signal comes from as long as you are consistent with it. In this case, when I put a dog into a sit/stay or a down/stay, he is always located on my left side, and I always step away from him on my right foot first. By contrast, if the dog has been directed to “heel,” I step away on my left foot. The dog soon learns to take his cue for the proper behavior from which foot I lead off with.
We have several clients, by the way, who own deaf dogs. We work exclusively through hand and foot signals and other body-language communications with such dogs, and they do very well with it.
Dianna Young is a certified, professional dog trainer and canine behaviorist from Camano Island, where she operates Camano Island Kennels Dog Boarding and Training Facility. She can be reached at (360) 387-DOGS or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her web site address is http://www.camanoislandkennels.com. Or visit us at facebook.