Dog trainer reveals the one thing people do wrong when teaching a puppy to stay

Dog being handed a treat by human
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The ‘stay’ command is a simple yet vital command that can empower your dog with the ability to remain in a specific position until given permission to move. 

It can come in handy in various situations. Whether it’s about teaching good manners before handing them something, such as a bowl of the best wet dog food or the best puppy toys. Perhaps you are trying to master how to stop a dog from jumping up and need a reliable command that tells them to halt.

Asking your dog to stay will also help when out on walks when you need to safely wait for traffic to pass at roads or for other dogs and humans to pass on busy footpaths.

But how exactly can you master the art of teaching 'stay' to your furry companion?

Enter Gia Savocchi, a certified dog trainer and behaviorist who recently shared the one big mistake countless dog owners make when teaching a dog to stay. View her Instagram below or carry on reading to find out what this mistake is and how to fix it.

Savocchi says the main aspect of teaching 'stay' that many dog owners inadvertently overlook is awarding the dog too early. According to Savocchi, asking your puppy to sit and then immediately praising them and handing them a treat is, “One of the worst things that you can do when teaching a puppy to stay”. 

This can inadvertently reward the dog for getting up, which is quite the opposite of what you are trying to do.

Instead, the dog behavior specialist advocates a method that nurtures the desired behavior, “One of the ways we teach ‘stay’ is to get the puppy to sit and we just reward them as long as they stay sitting with little pieces,” Savocchi explains, “So they start to learn that as they stay seated they can earn more treats.”

Gradually, the dog learns that staying seated results in more treats, reinforcing the connection between the command and the action. 

Savocchi also recommends introducing a release word or phrase, such as 'ok', that signals to your pooch that they are free to move again. This word helpe them to differentate between when they should be still and when they are free to roam.

Mastering the 'stay' command is about nurturing a connection built on trust, understanding, and effective communication between you and your furry companion. 

Savocchi's insights offer a helpful reminder that successful dog training often depends on employing the right techniques and avoiding common pitfalls. 

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.