Dog struggling to stay? Trainer reveals the one mistake we make when teaching this command, and what to do instead

Jack Russell Terrier dog sitting on ottoman stool in living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're struggling to teach your dog the 'stay' command, rest assured, you're not alone. Whether it's learning how to stop a dog from jumping up or how to crate train a dog, teaching your pup any new skill takes time, patience, and consistency.

Sometimes, however, we pet parents can make a range of common errors when we're training our dogs that can slow the process down and make it harder for our canine companions to learn the ropes and master what's expected of them. 

And according to expert trainer Adam Spivey, there's one mistake in particular that can really make it difficult for your dog to remain in the stay position. He explains things in full in the Instagram video below, but if you don't fancy watching the clip, you'll find a detailed breakdown of his advice below.

In the short video, Spivey can be seen working with a young German Shepherd named Otto. To begin with, he says the dog's name paired with the command 'sit' to illustrate how Otto breaks the stay position the minute he hears his name. On the next go, Spivey uses only the words 'sit' or 'stay' and Otto remains in position.

"When you use the dog's name it’s usually to get their attention to come to you," Spivey explains. "A lot of time if you want the dog to stay, using their name can make it more difficult as they (in the beginning) can mistake that for you calling them. 

Dogs know you are talking to them. Using the name when you want the dog to stay often creates confusion as the name is most linked to a recall so the dog can often think you are trying to call them."

Spivey says it's important your dog's name is used as a positive where possible and not when teaching something new. 

"If you are teaching SIT/STAYS give the command you want and then that’s it. You can remind the dog to do what you are asking, ie SIT if the dog looks like it’s about to break position, but you don’t need to keep saying it over and over or even use the name. If the dog breaks position put them back, do this every time until you release the dog or give them further instructions."

For more helpful training advice, check out our guide to the three reasons why your dog's recall isn't reliable (and what to do about it).

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.