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Adding distance to your dog's stay cue gives many dogs a new challenge and sets them up for success in real-life scenarios.
Now that you've learned how to teach your dog to stay for a certain duration of time and with your back turned, you can begin to gradually increase adding distance to your stay cue. Training your dog to stay while you're able to walk away from your dog is an example of a behavior that takes time and patience to build between dogs and dog owners but it's so worth the practice in the end.
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When you teach your dog this new behavior it's important to add distance one step at a time, returning to your dog to click and treat for holding his/her stay position like a champ. Pro tip, if your dog breaks position, that's a good indicator you need to go back and train at an easier level for a few repetitions before building back up in your training sessions.
Remember to increase the distance and difficulty with variability - don't make each and every time you practice harder, but instead stagger harder behavior with easier ones. That includes adding in any distractions. It's too soon for your dog to see other pets while learning this new behavior, so it's best to find a quiet place to teach your dog with few distractions.
Step 1: Take one step away from your dog
Start small when adding distance while your dog holds the stay cue. That usually means getting your dog into a sit, stand, or down position, then cue stay, turn your back and literally take one step away from your dog as you begin before clicking and returning to give him/her a treat as a reward for not moving. That's it. That's the training.
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If your dog moves before hearing a release word, that's a sign your training is moving too fast. Which is no big deal and actually great because your dog is giving you information! Reset your dog into the position you want to practice and go back to turning your back and holding for a few minutes while your dog stays. Then build back up to teaching your dog to stay while you take small steps away.
Ask your dog to sit, stand, or lie down. Use the verbal cue stay, turn your back, take one step away from your dog, click, immediately come back to your dog, and treat as a reward for staying in place. Repeat, gradually increasing the amount of steps as your dog remains in stay.
Step 2: Take a few steps in a different path
This next step is pretty straightforward. After following the above steps, try teaching the same behavior but taking a few steps away from your dog in varying paths than you did in the previous training. For example, if you walked in a straight line in the first round of training, try using the stay cue, turning your back, and taking a few steps on the diagonal. Try stepping every which way while you train, making sure you're training at the right pace for your dog and always using positive reinforcement to keep dog training fun for all. Everyone is motivated by treats and a reward, right?
Ask your dog to stay, turn your back, and walk away in a different path than you did before. Click, come back to your dog, and treat as a reward for staying in place. Repeat, changing up the direction of your steps as your dog remains in stay.
Step 3: Increase the distance from your dog
When your dog is able to remain in a sit or standing stay while you walk away and return, you can begin increasing your distance. Start walking away from your dog, click and treat for staying. As you increase the distance, also increase the number of steps you walk before turning around to return to your dog. Keep walking farther and farther away, stopping after every few clicks and treats to give your dog time to process his/her training and reward.
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Whether you're in a house or apartment, rooms are only so big and have only so much walking space. Moving outdoors is one way to get more room to add more distance while practicing your stay command, but keep in mind that working in a new environment inherently has more distractions. You'll want to revisit duration with your dog in a stay position before turning your back and taking a step backwards to start walking away and building distance from your dog.
Ask your dog to stay, turn your back, and walk away taking a few more steps than you did in the previous training. Click, come back to your dog, and treat as a reward for staying in place. Repeat, adding more steps as your dog stays in position.
Step 4: Learn to move 360 degrees around your dog
If you're limited on space, or just want to take things to the next level, you can start training your dog to stay while you walk 360 degrees around him/her! This is a fun training that not a lot of dogs have experience with, so to teach your dog this new behavior, let's break it down into small, easy to understand steps.
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- To begin, get your treat pouch ready, and cue your dog to stay whether in a standing or sitting position. While facing him/her take a half step with one foot to the side as if you're walking past your dog, click, come back and treat to reward your dog. How'd that go?
- If your dog stays, next try a full step to the same side. Cue your stay command, take a full step to the side of your dog, click, come back, and treat to reward your dog.
- Still staying in place? Next try taking a step and a half as you start to circle your dog. Cue your stay command, take a step and a half around your dog for just a few seconds, click, come back, and treat to reward your dog.
- How's your dog doing? Now might be a good time to give your dog their release word and take a play time break.
- Back to training. Next, try taking two steps around your dog. Cue your stay command, take two steps around your dog, click, come back and treat to reward your dog. This is the most challenging step for most dogs. As you start to step beyond their view, most dogs want to rotate their body with you. Watch your dog's head as you walk by. If their head is rotating to watch you, that's an indicator your dog will likely lose their stay position.
- Go slow and repeat the above step as much as needed. You want to make sure you take your time while you teach this to your dog. And if your dog is struggling to remain in sit, try widening your circle so you're stepping further away from your dog.
- Continue to add more steps as you circle your dog. Remember always click and treat your dog for every successful progression. The goal is to be able to walk 360 degrees around your dog while they stay in sit or down, even if their head whips around to try and follow you the whole time.
- Once you and your dog have mastered the 360 degree stay with your dog sitting, change it up! Try it in a down. Or standing position. Or if you started in down, now try it in a sit!
Step 5: Watch your dog's body language
In dog training it's really important to watch your dog's body language. Is your dog motivated to learn a new cue or word right now? If your dog's body is telling you to play, then play! If your pup is tired, wait on trying to teach a new trick and take a break. The biggest thing to remember in dog training is to train the dog in front of you.
Also, go slow. Be patient. Training sessions won't work for you or your dog if you try to rush to the finish line without building up to it. If your dog is struggling with any of the above steps, that's ok! Try something else.
Learn how to progressively increase the space between you and your dog when teaching the "stay" cue.
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Now that your dog can "stay" for long periods of time with your back turned at a distance from you, you're ready to move to the final step and start adding distractions to your "stay" cue. Continue to part four of teaching your dog to "stay" in the next guide here to learn how to add distractions like other dogs or people while your dog remains in stay.
And as always, if you ever have questions feel free to ask them in the Community discussion in the Manners Channel or I'm happy to help you 1-1 if you would like more personal training guidance.