How to Teach Your Dog to “Stay”… - Brandon McMillan's Canine Minded
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How to Teach Your Dog to “Stay”…

How to Teach Your Dog to “Stay”…

Of all my “7 Common Commands” one of the most important I try and put overtime into is the “Stay” command. It can be lifesaver in the right situations. I’ve had countless testimonials from my clients over the years about how the stay command possibly saved their dog’s life because of when they needed it most. Usually it’s their dog in the front yard and it begins to dart towards the street. The stay command kept them at the curb, obeying the command. Moments like this have made me smile knowing that my training not only is working but is also saving lives. But what is the best way to teach a stay? There is several ways that I like and constantly use which are all very effective but all depends on the dog which way they learn the best. The technique I’ll go over today is not only one of the more simple for the average dog owner to grasp but one of my favorites because of the distinctive style it takes to train it. I call it ” The Cornered Stay.” Now I can’t be sure I’m the first to ever execute this technique because I’ve never really researched it but what I can tell you is I made it up myself from years of experimenting with animal training. After you teach this technique to your dog the days of worrying if they’ll bolt across the street will be a thing of the past. Let’s train that little ball of fur to finally freeze when told to do so once and for all…

The only tools you’ll need for this technique will be a regular 6 foot leash, a bag of treats they like and an ideal location to train. The location is the key to training this. We’re gonna need an enclosed yard, enclosed empty parking lot or some larger area with a 90 degree angled corner somewhere in there. A backyard with a fence is ideal because it offers a large enclosed area with the fence hitting 90 degree angles in the corners. Don’t worry it’ll all make sense soon. Just make sure the location has these elements and all will be ok. Ok now we’re geared up with a place to train so let’s go ahead and get started…

Step 1: With their leash clipped on and your treats in your bait bag all ready for action we’re gonna go ahead and place your dog in the corner in a sit position with their butt scooted up against the corner. If their butt is a few feet away from the corner go ahead and physically place them as close to that corner as you can. This is vital. From only 1 foot away from them you’re going to use one hand to signal a “Stay” signal while you simultaneously say the command “Stay.” I want you to tell them “Stay” not ask them. In other words make it come out firm and assertive with a flat monotone sound to it, not a high pitched yippy sound. We’re only gonna hold them there for 1 second and 1 second only. If they don’t budge we quickly pet, praise and reward with a treat. If they budge, quickly correct on the leash so they sit again and repeat till they don’t move for just 1 second. Next we’re gonna back off 1 more foot effectively making your distance 2 feet away from them now. Now we repeat the process as above. Signaling a stay with our hand while staying stay but this time we’re gonna hold them for 2 seconds. If they don’t budge for that 2 seconds we pet, praise and reward. If they budge we once again correct on leash so they sit and repeat the process till they stay for 2 seconds. Ok I’m gonna quickly point out something before we continue because the next small step we take can be disastrous of not executed correctly. Notice how they’re in that corner and have very little options to run away? That’s the key to this entire process. We’ve eliminated their options of directions to run. However, the next foot we back off we’re opening 2 gaps on either side of us just big enough for them to slip through. Keep this in mind as we repeat the steps. We’re gonna add a slight change this time. So once again we give a stay signal while saying stay but this time I want both of your hands a little lower ready for them to bolt through one of those gaps. If they stay for 3 seconds we pet, praise and reward. If they budge we quickly use our hand to block that gap while saying a firm “Stay.” Don’t be afraid to stiffen the end of your hand up to make all 4 fingers stiff and poke them in the chest if they’re making a run for it. Technically you just have to hold your hand out with stiffened fingers and allow them to run into it. Once they feel this they won’t wanna challenge it again because they realized there’s a physical block that’ll engage if they don’t listen. Kinda like a guard gate going down in a parking lot. So we don’t move on till they’ve mastered 3 feet for 3 seconds. As we move on we repeat the steps. Now we’re at 4 feet for 4 seconds. Rewarding when they don’t move and correcting when they do. Making sure to use your hands like a goalie to block them if needed and only moving on when they’ve mastered that distance with that time. Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. For the first session I never recommend going further than 6 feet for 6 seconds. That’s more than enough for a dog to learn in a short time. So we’re gonna end it on a successful stay and pick it up again tomorrow…

As we pick up where we left off we’re gonna do a quick refresher on what we covered in our first session. ONLY IF they’re successfully stay every time when asked are we ready to take it to the next level. In theory they should be staying at 10 feet for 10 seconds with ease in the corner before moving on to this next step. It’s very important they have this step down before advancing so if it takes a few days to get there then take a few days to get there. Ok let’s take it to the next step. This time we’re not gonna place them in the corner, but against a wall with plenty of space on both sides. I don’t want them anywhere near a corner this time. I want them just against a wall preferably with at least 5 feet on each side. From there we’re gonna pick up where we left off, placing their butt against the wall, signaling a stay command while saying the stay command. Once again we’re gonna start off at 1 foot for 1 second. Moving on only when they’re ready. And again we’re going to repeat what we did above. Say stay while giving a stay hand signal and we’re once again using our hands like a goalie would. Preventing them from darting left or right. Most dogs won’t challenge the hands out when they see them. For those that do challenge we once again poke them back with our fingers essentially stopping them in their place. We repeat the same pattern as above as well. 2 feet for 2 seconds. 3 feet for 3 seconds and so on. After 4 feet we’re gonna have to heavily rely on our voice to stop them as our hands will no longer be in reach to stop them. However, I do find a good foot stomp is also a great way to stop them in their tracks because it quickly startles them for just that split second and snaps them back into reality, reminding them of what they were doing. This is why I stress the importance of not moving on till you know they’re ready. I’d rather spend a little more time at close range knowing they’re boing properly conditioned instead of moving on too quickly where they’re gonna constantly blow it. So now we’ve mastered them against the wall it’s time for the final step.

Now let’s pull them away from that wall into the middle of the area. Now their options are unlimited because we’ve pulled them away from all barriers. This is where we find out if they truly understand the concept of the stay. So once again we’re gonna repeat the steps. 1 foot for 1 second. 2 feet for 2 seconds and so on and so forth, moving on only when they successfully obey. Making sure to use that foot stomp if necessary. By now all the conditioning has paid off and they’re staying when asked. If they’re not staying when you ask them that means they weren’t ready to move on so simply place them back in the corner and repeat till they’ve got it. You’ve now trained one of the most important commands on your dog.

As always the training is in the details and I have a lot to point out here. First of all I wanna give you a quick rundown of exactly what we covered here so you can answer your own questions if needed. Let’s talk about placing them into a corner. All we’ve done is cut off their options of directions to run. Think about an octagon as their options of directions they can go of they were standing in the middle of an open field. They have 8 directions to run at that point. Now place them against a wall and we’ve taken away 3 directions giving them 5 directions to still run. Now place them in the corner and we’ve taken away 5 directions giving them only 3 directions to run now. Once you stand in front of them you’ve eliminated yet another direction. Holding your hands out now takes away their final 2 directions leaving them with no options. Draw an octagon on a piece of paper and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. This is why I call it “The Cornered Stay.” We’re essentially emiminating directions for them to run starting it off in a corner and opening up a little section at a time only when they’re ready. Also it’s a good idea to teach this when they’re tired because they’ll condition much faster and lessen the chance of them constantly running on you. After a walk, after a meal or at night is ideal. If they’re hyper with a ton of energy they’re gonna be running around like a maniac and you’ll be getting frustrated at them in turn giving them a bad taste in their mouth about the command in general. The better time they have while learning this the more they’ll wanna do it in the future. Also the finger poke needs to be done correctly if needed. I don’t want you slamming your fingers into their chest, but I want them to simply run into your fingers. Once they do this once they’re likely not to do it again. Also I wanna point out where I mentioned the foot stomp. This is an ideal way to stop them in their tracks if they decide to move when you’re at a further distance from them. This gets their attention just for a split second so you can get their mind back on you. Highly advise you use this when training at a distance. Now I know I said it time and again throughout this entire blog but I’m gonna go ahead and say it again so you’ll wanna choke me…DO NOT MOVE ON TILL THEY’RE READY!!! I can’t stress this enough. This is the main reason people get frustrated and eventually fail at this technique because they saw really quick progress in the first few minutes so they figured they could just skip a few feet and go for gold. This is why I mentioned above to take a few days to train this. Very few dogs could ever get to the final step in one day so take a few days and do it right. We take it slow and steady. Period.

Ok I think I made myself clear so I’ll stop reiterating the point to take it slow. Ah what the hell I’ll say it one more time…TAKE IT SLOOOooooow!!! Try it out on your dog and let me know how it goes. Ruff.

– Brandon

  • Josie V Bashir
    Posted at 19:43h, 16 April Reply

    I wrote in asking how I could get my snouazer terrier to not bark when I leave home and how to get my Lhasa apso to walk with him outdoors. I saw show with chiwawa when you told no and that stops cartier from barking indoors. But not sure how to keep him from sprinting to the other dogs so I could walk him with person told me to take treats outdoors so he does not sprint like he would be obedient maybe. any suggestions.
    Josie Bashir dog owner

  • Josie V Bashir
    Posted at 19:47h, 16 April Reply

    So far the cocker spaniel mini poodle Nina Gina is only female dog in house has grandson Linle L that acts like Coochie .They play a lot but why does Cartier growl at them

  • Marsha L. Kirkland
    Posted at 13:38h, 11 May Reply

    Brandon I love your Lucky Dog Show. I sort of rescue animals also,except they just show up at my house. I have four dogs and two cats. Should I use different training techniques since my dogs are all outside? Also the I can’t let the dogs and cats together because two of the dogs try to take the cats apart. Do you have any suggestions? I watch your show every week but can’t always figured out the training. Do you have training DVD’s? Thanks and keep up the great work. If I can help you in any way please just let me know. My email is : and I live in Wagener, SC.

  • Teaching Dog
    Posted at 11:32h, 14 May Reply

    Realy good stuff you share. Now i’m follow that 7 steps to teach my puppy and its work.

  • Patrick Haggerty
    Posted at 15:22h, 29 May Reply

    Thanks for all of this valuable information on training and tips. Appreciate it!

  • Vickie
    Posted at 06:44h, 19 June Reply


    I do not have pets of my own because of my work schedule. (Could not leave a fur ball @ home alone as much as I’m gone 6 days a week.). I am the babysitter for my sister’s 2year old male spaniel mix when she goes on vacation, however. And the next time I have a week with Sonny, I’m going to teach him a STAY! 🙂

    He is cute as hell and super sweet, but OMG-he still has a serious case of the puppy crazies-especially when anyone new enters a room, or when he first gets outside. He goes crazy for about a minute. So I know this is going to be a battle, but I’m convinced this method would GREATLY help us control him. I just have to plan ahead to be VERY patient and consistent-and when my sis returns from her “vacay”, her spoiled rotton pup (who we ALL spoil, by the way) will STAY for her! 🙂 LOOKING FORWARD TO DOING THIS, thanks to the help you’ve provided here!

    It may be a couple of months before she’s gone for a few days again. But i’ll report back on my SUCCESS after! 🙂 Thanks so much, Brandon! Arf. 🙂

  • Barbara
    Posted at 16:21h, 19 July Reply

    I watch your show on Saturday mornings and I love it. The last show was about a family with a child with cerebal palsey and that dog was amazing. My dog is a rescued black lab mix we rescued about 3 years ago when she was 1. I am going to try the pennies in a water bottle because she jumps and is about 70 lbs. I also have a problem with her heeling and am trying that, but she gets so excited when she sees other people. She does sit on command and will stay when I first take her off the leash. Is she too old for me to try and teach? She will move and back up when I tell her but not when my son does it except when he’s in his electric wheelchair.I’d really appreciate it if you let me know. Thank You

  • Wendy Wagner
    Posted at 22:53h, 20 July Reply

    Brandon, I faithfully watch your show every Saturday. I love your techniques and the calm friendly way you handle the dogs but still get what you want from them. I have a 12 week old GoldenDoodle and am working on two challenges right now. How to get her to stop jumping (in a non-aggressive way) on other people when she sees them no matter if they come to the door or she sees them outside. I can get her to stop jumping on me by using the Cesar M method – fold my arms, stand still and ignore. Actually it works for me to stare in her eyes and she finally stops and retreats. It does not work with other people. My friend has come over several times using that method and it is not working. I haven’t seen this addressed in your TV shows to see how you do it. Any suggestions you can help me with?

    The second question is I cannot find where to purchase the lure stick you use for a variety of commands. I need it for teaching her to heel. Can you lead me to where to find this?

    Do you ever come to Orlando for shows or workshops?
    Wendy Wagner
    Elementary School Principal

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 16:16h, 28 July Reply

    My dog learned “wait” really well during agility training, but I realize I never taught her a proper “stay”. Now I’m not sure how to teach her the difference.

  • Bob Fischler
    Posted at 00:02h, 16 September Reply

    It would be fantastic if you put together a manual for training your dog to the 7 basic commands! A guaranteed best seller!

  • CJ
    Posted at 17:19h, 03 October Reply

    I’ll try it. Thanks.

  • CJ
    Posted at 17:19h, 03 October Reply

    I’ll try this. Thanks.

  • carol stultz
    Posted at 18:44h, 31 October Reply

    Hi Brandon:
    I try to watch your show every week. I have Newfoundlands. I have a 7 year old that is a therapy dog and has several rally titles. He was easy because he wants to please. I also have and 18 month old that has a mind of his own. He is a sweet dog but he has a mjnd of his own. Treats don’t matter to him. We have had newfs since the 80.s and he is the second one that was tough. I saw your show this am and you used a harness. I think that may help. Please let me know where I can purchase one.

    Again I reall like your show and all the help you are giving to unwanted dogs

    Carol Stultz,

  • Chris
    Posted at 02:14h, 30 December Reply

    This is great! Do you have anything on door manners? Our family has taken in a rescue and he is becoming aggressive by the front door when people want to come in. He is a bigger dog (100+lbs) so my wife can not just pull him back, but when she tries he gets verbal with her.

  • Joyce Cooper
    Posted at 05:25h, 30 December Reply

    Perfect thanks will start this weekend and let you know.

  • Michael Guice
    Posted at 15:21h, 06 February Reply

    Thanks for the information. I’ve never used this version of stay training. I’m always looking for new ideas and methods to incorporate into my classes.

  • Jenniffer Jude Slachtovsky
    Posted at 17:14h, 02 December Reply

    Your the best! I thought this was going to be hell for me, but you have everything broken down and our dogs are so smart and loving so I know they’re going to do well with this, Ive already done the calm down and sit commands with the leashes and Captin is doing really really well I am so excited now too! this is really fun!

  • Mac Mintaka
    Posted at 21:46h, 25 August Reply

    Hi Brandon! Thank you for posting this training technique. I’m going to scout our neighborhood for places to do it.

    I have a piece of feedback from my place as a reader of your page. I simply suggest you use more paragraphs, and if appropriate, bullet points. In reading this post I kept losing my place in your huge paragraphs and I kept feeling I would never be able to finish the post. I only stayed on the page because it seems like a good technique.

    Here’s a link to an article by the Nielsen Norman Group, a well known and respected usability company that does a ton of research on how to build web sites that people will actually stay and read. Take it as you will, I just thought I’d give you a little advice in exchange for getting to read a good article. Thanks!!

    (Also I just noticed that your ‘SUBMIT’ button for the comments is barely visible until I mouse over it. It’s almost the same color as the page background.)

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