The Roadmap to STAY

A calm, quiet stay while shopping in Olde Town Alexandria.  Cheers to Victoria at home for providing the lovely backdrop.

Holiday preparation time! Before you start cooking and shopping, spend some time and STAY in with your pup! We are highlighting two different plans that break the cue into successful training steps this month that the uber nerd or relaxed trainer will enjoy! Have fun training!


Guess what!?  You really don’t need me, as your trainer, to teach STAY, the best cue ever!   You need a destination, a roadmap or two, and a little bit of time!

Have you seen your dog in springs loaded mode, sitting and waiting eagerly to come running to you when you move away from them, eager to earn all the praise and rewards for action?  This might happen when you ask your pup to SIT STAY at dinner time and you release pup to get dinner. Spring load mode might also happen when you cue SIT STAY as you open the door, step through and call your pup through to go for a walk. You are a great trainer if you have gotten this far!  These are both excellent impulse control behaviors that teach a pause and then action and then reward happens!

What if our STAY destination were to look more like this? A warm summer day, hanging out on the patio of a restaurant, pup settled in under the table, hanging at the front door with visitors coming and going, or chillin’ when working in the office?   The goal behavior, the behavior people LOVE, in all three of these scenarios is a dog that is relaxed and settled, no springs locked and loaded!

The final product STAY, in about four short weeks, will look like a great big <<YAWN!!>>, pup voluntarily offering a down, chin resting, maybe even settling in for a quick snooze because the rewards will happen when calm happens.  Practicing one or both road maps to STAY no longer reinforce the movement but chill out.

Grab your Starbucks latte and let’s get the tools together for training! You will need  a leash, treats, pup and a crate or baby gate and the roadmap.


Part one: The break it down STAY roadmap will teach you about word association and individually adding duration, distance and distractions!   Choose this method if you are looking to clear up your communication and understand what splitting criteria for the STAY cue might look like. It gives you a launching point and builds on the foundation blocks of a crisp SIT or DOWN STAY.

Part two: Adding it all together STAY will have you working on duration, distance and distractions together but working within a crate or behind the confines of a baby gate or xpen.  This method actively, quickly, rewards your pup for being quiet and calm away from you but is not so strict on the SIT or DOWN criteria. A pup who is confident and comfortable being crated or confined away from me because of all the “what ifs” we might encounter if we travel, or we are at the vet or we need to separate a visiting dog isn’t so friendly,

Break it down:

First stop on the map! Word association

Your classroom is in the house and with your pup on the leash. Cue SIT, STAY, praise and treat multiple times quickly.  Cue ALL DONE and encourage your pup to move about. This first stop is simply associating words and consequences, happy ones! STAY means lots of praise and rewards are going to happen to you, pup, in really quick succession, if you just keep your bum on the ground. Right from the get go you are teaching ALL DONE means now pup can move about.

You can move forward to your second stop when you have perfected the fine are of how fast you need to praise and feed in order to keep your pup’s bum on the ground until you cue ALL DONE. A strong foundation here prevents a pup from becoming easily frustrated down the road.

Second pin! adding and varying duration

Add duration and vary duration. Cue SIT STAY, count to one click, treat, count to two, click treat, count to three click treat, release with an ALL DONE cue.  Repeat the exercise several times over several days.  If you have worked your way to ten seconds then start varying the time so your pup doesn’t predict end of training game, or simply say, well ten seconds was fine but 30 is too much of one little kibble!

Third pin! Add distance

Cue SIT STAY, click and treat, take one step away, click and return to your pup and treat.  Take two steps away, click ad return to your pup and treat. Take three steps away, click and return to your pup to treat.
Cue ALL DONE and encourage your pup to get up. Notice with each added step that you always return to pup to treat. Click and praising while you are away from pup lets them know they are doing the behavior correctly and returning to them to reward reminds them we want them to maintain a position.

Fourth pin! Add distractions only

Cue SIT STAY, and add a simple distraction.  For example to answer the front door and let guests in, you might turn your back on a pup, click and treat, you might open a door, click and treat, you might say hello, click and treat, you might bend over to take a package click and treat. Cue ALL DONE encourage your pup to walk about!
What if the door opening causes your pup to break the STAY? Break down the behavior!  Cue SIT STAY, reach for the door, click and treat, touch the door handle, click treat, move the door handle click treat, crack the door open click treat. cue ALL DONE!  Success this time?  Fantastic!  You are now problem solving how to break a behavior down so you can build it back up to the STAY you want!

Fifth pin! problem solving

What if my pup breaks the STAY before I release him? Simple,  be informative,  re cue the SIT STAY, no treat and repeat the last step that caused the break. If pup stays this time click treat and then ALL DONE with intention. If you pup is repeatedly breaking position evaluate your environment, is it too busy? Are you offering you pup a high, fast rate of reinforcement? Did you get distracted? Was yesterday’s training session short and successful? Is your pup healthy?  Keep an eye out and adjust your training plan as needed.

Adding it all together:

Because I am a brilliant trainer, and I see how you live with your pup, I would like to add this plan for a successful, useful stay! It will help reduce home alone anxiety and guarantee your pup is comfortable hanging out away from you if the need arises!

Bait your pup with a few treats and lure them into the crate or around to the far side of a baby gate.  We are going to combine the distance, duration and distractions in thecrate, or behind the baby gate, door closed, first. Don’t worry about a perfect SIT and STAY but praise and reward for quiet, not jumping behavior. Your pup moving or readjusting is fine because over the course of the two week protocol you are going to follow you will see your pup  offering SIT and DOWN and settling in because they know you are  rewarding the calm, stationary behavior!

Because other trainers are brilliant I would like to take a moment and give a shout out to Up with Pup and Dr Karen Overall. The brief 7 Day relaxation protocol  combines duration, distraction and distance and is THE plan you will follow once your pup is on the other side of the door.

Chewy demos relaxation protocol with success is this video with the gate closed.  (If your pup barks, whines or scratches at gate in this step, simply say ALL DONE, open the gate, put the treats away and come back and start over later! This reaction reduces a pup’s stress and makes the next training session and the one after better.)

Chewy is demonstrating here the first day of relaxation protocol with his pen door open.  Notice that while he does beak position it is easy to get him back into place.    A few short days later and he wasn’t even leaving his bed even once during the sequence of events listed in the relaxation protocol!

One short week, ten minutes a day later and review the protocol over with the crate, door open. And then, a week later, you may want to start practicing the protocols in other places, on a mat or in the car for better road trips. How great would it be to have a pup who calms down on trips? Would your pup get to travel more with you! We know ours does!

See you outside on the patio soon!

**Special note only for the other uber nerds out there! You may also love reading and adding to your STAY plan with 14 Day relaxation protocol. It will get you to quiet puppies with the front doorbell ringing and visitors coming and going!