I was in Weston last week installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® system for a new client and his Havanese, Rosy. They were in the Country Club area of Weston which is always a more difficult area to install the system. Fortunately, all went very well and we had Rosy understanding that she could not crawl under the Ficus hedges and run on the 10th fairway. I also installed an inside system for my client so that he could open the garage door and Rosy would stay at the laundry room door and not run out when he left or run under the tires when he came home. He was very happy with the results and how it was going to vastly improve his home life. As we were finishing up, I was talking to him about how many of his neighbors’ dogs I had trained as a professional dog trainer. That conversation sparked a question. He was wondering how he could get Rosy to stay through a simple command.
Getting a dog to stay is one of the most important obedience commands because it deals directly with the dog’s safety. You may need to open the front door to retrieve a package or pick up a broken glass from the kitchen floor. You may need to keep her stable as you are on a walk and a more aggressive dog is passing in front of you. Sometimes, you just don’t want her to bug your guests.
The problem that most people have in trying to teach their dogs to “stay” is that they jump to the end of the lesson without teaching their dog the basics. In the same way that we often hear “you have to learn to walk before you can run”, we need to take small, progressive steps in the learning process with our dog. For example, if your dog never pays attention to you, he is never going to stay on your command. If your dog doesn’t know how to sit, what makes you think he is going to stay?
We need to break the “stay” command down into small, progressive lessons that have clear success points and obvious advancement paths to the next level. Since my client demonstrated that Rosy already can sit on command nearly 100% of the time, I suggested the following lesson plan:
- I first told my client that Rosy always needed to be on a leash during her teaching process. This assured that she couldn’t just say “phooey” and run away from the lesson. This also gave my client a tool that he could use in a physically passive way to teach and guide Rosy if she was having difficulty with a specific action.
- Now, I told my client to have Rosy sit. If she didn’t, he needed to correct her and then guide her into a sit.
- Next, I told my client to stand directly in front of Rosy (within two feet), extend his arm, hold up his hand (like a traffic cop telling you to stop), and then say “stay”. He is to remain in that position for approximately three to five seconds.
- If Rosy moves, he needs to start again, put her in a sit, and then step in front, etc.
- Once Rosy has remained stable for three to five seconds, he is to praise her and then lower his hand. They are done for now.
- He is to repeat this for several days until Rosy does this correctly (not moving) 100% of the time. As she is correctly doing it, he should extend the “stay” period from three to five seconds to twenty to thirty seconds.
Now, we are ready to move on to the next level:
- My client needs to put Rosy in a sit and then step in front of her, hand extended, and say “stay”.
- Now, he needs to step back slowly; always keeping his arm extended and his hand in the “traffic cop” position.
- Once he gets approximately five feet away, he stops and waits for three to five seconds. If Rosy doesn’t move; he will slowly step back to her, praise her, and lower his hand.
- If Rosy moves, he needs to repeat the process.
- As Rosy successfully completes this exercise, he should extend the time he is standing away from her from three to five seconds to twenty to thirty seconds.
- He should take care that when he steps back (always holding the leash), that he does not give any tug on the leash. This would send an inappropriate signal to her.
Once Rosy can successfully complete this exercise, he can move on to a more advance step:
- I told my client to do everything he had done up to that point. He should now be approximately five feet in front of Rosy, having said “stay”, arm extended, and hand outstretched.
- Now, he is to slowly move to his left around Rosy until he is approximately on her right side. He should pause there for a moment.
- Now, he should reverse course and move until he is on Rosy’s left side.
- She should remain stable, but have her focus on him. If she doesn’t keep focus on him, he should snap his fingers or give a slight guttural sound to get her attention and calm focus.
- After he has moved to Rosy’s left and right several times, he should return to being five feet directly in front of her. At this point, he should slowly approach her until he is approximately two feet directly in front of her.
- He can now praise her for a great job and lower his hand.
- He should repeat this until Rosy never moves. This should be one or two days.
It is now time for the next step:
- I told my client to have Rosy in a sit, step in front of her and say “stay” as he had his arm extended and hand up, and step back five feet.
- I now wanted him to move to Rosy’s right, but not stop.
- He is to continue around her so that he will go behind her and then come up from her rear on her left side. He is to continue moving until he has completely circled her and has ended five feet directly in front of her (where he started).
- This is a little tricky because he will have to flick the leash over Rosy’s head while not hitting and distracting her.
- Rosy should be attentive of him as he moves out of her vision and then focus on him as he emerges on her other side.
- He should repeat this encirclement action several times in both directions while Rosy gives him calm focus and remains stable. He should then return to be directly in front of her, praise her, and lower his arm.
- He needs to practice this until Rosy never moves and focuses on him.
One more step:
- It is now time to make this “real world”.
- I told my client to have Rosy in a sit, stand in front of her, tell her to stay as he raised his arm, and step back to the end of the leash (appx five feet).
- He is to keep his arm extended and continue to face Rosy as he drops the leash.
- Now, he needs to walk around the room with his hand extended and facing Rosy.
- Rosy is not to move. If she does, he needs to start this step again.
- After three or four minutes of his walking around the room and Rosy in a stable sit (without his holding the leash), he can return to her, praise her, and lower his hand.
- Rosy now knows how to stay.
In the same way that humans learn many hard tasks through small and consistent “baby steps”, dogs learn in the same manner. Please ask us any dog training or dog fence questions by going to Dog Fence Training Help Weston South Florida. For expediency, our direct phone number is (954) 424-0170. Learn more about Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® and how to have a great dog at Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Weston South Florida. We are so happy to have been your South Florida dog experts for over twelve years in Weston and across South Florida. Our systems are perfect to keep your dog safe and confined. Robin and I have trained nearly 4,000 dogs to be great and loving pets. Find out about our Dog Obedience and Behavior Training by visiting Home Dog Training Weston South Florida.