Here is a fun and useful “training” game you can play with your puppy. This game will reinforce (and teach) the following commands:
Sit * Stay * Sniff it * Find it * Come * No
You will need a willing puppy, a leash and collar, and a handful of yummy puppy biscuits, or other treats.
Begin by placing your puppy in a Sit / Stay. As soon as your puppy is settled, hold a biscuit in front of your puppy’s nose, saying Sniff It. Your puppy may grab for the treat, so hold it tight. If your puppy lunges for the treat, say NO, reinforce the Sit / Stay command, then repeat Sniff It. You might be able to see your puppy’s nose wiggle as he sniffs.
Place the treat on the floor where your puppy can see it. Insist that your puppy stay properly seated for a count of 10. Then, with an excited tone of voice, release your puppy from the Sit / Stay saying: OK! Find it! As soon as your puppy finds it, call your puppy to Come, praise your puppy, and then do it all over again.
A favorite toy can be substituted for a treat, but only if your puppy is highly motivated to find, get, and play with the toy.
During the teaching phase, the treat must be in plain sight and super easy to find. If your puppy seems confused, or has any trouble finding the treat, you must help him find it. Do several simple repetitions. As soon as your puppy understands the concept, begin gradually to increase the difficulty by hiding the treat in other rooms, or out of sight.
Freeze in place. Do not move from this spot, or out of this position, until I say you can.
What it doesn’t mean:
Hang around in this general area for a while, and then get up and go do what you want.
- Verbal Command: “Stay”
- Tone of voice: Firm and no nonsense, with an emphasis on the sound “ay”
- Hand Signal: Palm of your hand in front of your puppy’s face. Fingers together.
Start with your puppy sitting or laying down. Say the command “stay,” use the hand signal, and then move at least one step away, giving your puppy a chance to get up, lay down, or otherwise move out of position. Quickly, put your puppy back into the original position, in the original spot, and repeat the command and hand signal, and then move away again. Do not allow the puppy to move out of position until you give the “release” command. When moving the puppy back into place, use the “No!” command.
When working with puppies, start with a stay for a slow count to 5. If that goes well, release your puppy, and then practice on a longer stay. If your puppy moves out of place, start the count all over again. Puppies can usually be expected to stay sitting for as long as 30 seconds, the older the puppy, the longer the stay can be. Puppies can stay in a down position for as long as 5 or even 10 minutes. If they get tired, they can take a nap.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Do not drag out the command “stay” and turn it into “staaaaaay.” Short and quick is how it should be said. The same is true for the hand signal. Show your puppy the palm of your hand as you give the command, and then take your hand away. Do not try to use your hand signal as a way to stop your puppy from moving. Give your puppy every opportunity to move out of position. This will provide you and your puppy with lots of repetition and learning opportunities.
Keep the leash loose, only tighten it when actively putting the puppy back into place. The leash should not be what is holding the puppy in place. The puppy’s own decision to obey you is what should keep him in place.
Don’t hover over your puppy and try to “mind control” him into a stay. You want your puppy to decide to stay put because he wants to please and obey you, not because he sees you hovering. Your relaxed attitude and willingness to quickly put the puppy back into place no matter how often he gets up or runs off reinforces your position of leadership.
Do not give your command as a question: “Stay???” There is no question. Once you’ve said “stay,” the puppy is required to stay.
Scratching and licking is OK. But be aware that it is a signal that the puppy will soon be moving out of place, so be ready to quickly put the puppy back in place.
As much as possible try to correct your puppy as he is in the act of moving, rather than after he has already moved.
Be quick – the speed of your correction is a very effective reinforcement. Move your puppy back into place as quickly as possible. When returning your puppy to the original position, be very particular that it be the original position in the original spot. This is how your puppy will learn that “stay” means freeze in place. It also shows that you were serious about what you said. If your puppy was in a “sit” when you gave the “stay” command, expect the puppy to stay sitting. If the puppy lays down, quickly put the puppy back into a “sit.”
If your puppy is in the “down” position when you gave the “stay” command, don’t let him sit back up, roll over, or creep forward. Quickly move the puppy back into the original position in the original spot, and then hands off and move away. If your puppy falls asleep when in the “down stay” that is perfectly acceptable. But don’t leave the puppy to nap. Wake the puppy up when the “stay” is over.
Don’t let your puppy jump the gun. If you are working on a stay for a count to 15, and the puppy moves at 13, you’ll have to start all over again. Some puppies can tell by your body language that you are about to give the “release” command, and move out of place a split second before you release them. This means that you have a really smart puppy, and its even more important for you to stick to your guns – put that puppy back into place, and start the count all over again.
Never, never, never give up.
Keep working on the stay until you have succeeded. I cannot stress this enough! Your puppy will give in eventually. If it seems like it’s taking forever, or seems impossible, keep count of how many times you had to put your puppy back in place. I once trained a puppy that had to be put back into place more than 132 times. By the time we succeeded at a “count of 20 stay,” we were both exhausted. But that puppy never again tested me on the stay command.
If your puppy bites at your hands a lot, use the leash to control your puppy’s head while using your left hand to control the rear end. Don’t hover over a biting puppy, this will escalate the problem. Pop the puppy into position quickly and with authority, then stand up straight, or move away. This is not the time to address the biting issue. Avoid and ignore it while teaching stay. Your puppy won’t be able to bite you if he is in a stay and you have moved away.
If your puppy is in a “sit stay” and starts chewing on the leash, pop the leash up with a quick sharp “No!” If this brings the puppy out of a “si stay.” that’s OK. Just put the puppy back into position, and step away. If the puppy can’t seem to leave the leash alone, make the corrections a little more vigorous each time.
If your puppy is in a “down stay” and starts chewing on the leash, give a quick sharp downward pop with the leash and a sharp “No!” If the puppy can’t seem to leave the leash alone, step on the leash close to the collar pinning the puppy to the floor just long enough to make your point. Then move your foot and give the puppy a chance to “be good.”
If your puppy is chewing on your shoe laces or your pant leg, you are too close to the puppy. Repeat the “stay” command and move further away. Expect that the puppy will follow, and use this opportunity to quickly put your puppy back into place and reinforce the “stay” command.
Very Young Puppies:
If your puppy is very young, (6 to 8 weeks) you can sit down (on the floor) with your puppy, and place the puppy in front of you facing sideways. This makes it easier to put the puppy into a sit or a down. As soon as the puppy is placed, let go and move away, staying ready to grab the leash if the puppy tries to bolt.
What your puppy learns:
The most important thing your puppy learns from this command is that you mean what you say when you say it. It teaches your puppy to believe in your authority and your role as leader of the pack. It also teaches physical and mental control. In my opinion, the stay command is the most important command for a puppy to learn.
Stay for a treat:
In my experience treats for the stay command are not effective. If your puppy loves treats, and is strongly motivated by food, you can give a treat AFTER the command has been SUCCESSFULLY executed.
Written by: Shirley Gibson
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