One of the first exercises we learn in obedience training is the “stay” behavior. In fact, it is not uncommon to see this behavior taught in the first class or lesson. This is because it is a fundamental behavior needed for any obedience routine, let alone its value in daily life with our dogs. From leaving your dog in a sit-stay at the end of the driveway while you get the mail, to leaving your dog in a down-stay while playing frisbee at the park. The stay behavior could possibly be the most valuable behavior next to recall in all of our dog training.
It seems as though many people run into conflict when teaching this behavior. The conflict normally results in the same problem, which is the dog breaking its stay behavior before being released. Why the dog breaks its stay could fall into a couple different categories.
One expression of the dog breaking its stay could be that it is insecure in its environment. The fundamental problem with this particular expression is not so much a training behavior, but more of socialization issue.
The most common expression of this is that the dog is in anticipation of the release and lacks the patience to hold its position.
And yet another reason could be because the dog is either bored or distracted, and breaks its stay because ultimately the dog does not value the exercise itself, or the exercise is somehow unclear to the dog.
All of this being said, we have found that if we apply one concept to our stay behaviors, we do not encounter the problems in training that we have witnessed with other training methods.
That one concept is:
If you place your dog in either a sit, stand, or down stay, never release your dog from the behavior until you have returned to the position in which you left the dog.
What the dog learns through this protocol is that the only way it is ever release from its stay is if you are standing right next to him/her, in the heeling position (normally). By understanding the exercise this way, the dog will never anticipate the release when you are away. By having correct repetitions the dog will also learn it is never allowed to release itself.
If we do not follow this protocol in our training and release the dog while we are away from it, or heaven forbid recall the dog from a stay, we run a strong risk of the dog misinterpreting our sounds or actions for the release or recall, creating conflict. And of course our goal number one when teaching a dog is avoiding conflict.
Its as simple as that.