As a professional dog trainer, Lucy Heath knows first hand that you absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks.
In her eight-part Masterclass Series, she shows us how it's done, stepping us through the fundamentals of training with kindness opening the way for a whole lot of fun for you and your dog. You can watch the videos here:
Lucy Heath teaches us to train our dog to ‘Stay’
In this series of Dog Masterclasses, Lucy teaches us how to train our dogs from the basics to the more advanced. In this video we learn how to teach ‘Stay’ and ‘Wait’.
Remember, when training your dog you need some tasty treats and your dog’s favourite toy.
All of the behaviours taught here are useful in everyday life, especially when it comes to things like vet visits and grooming.
‘Stay’ is taught in 3 different parts:
Put together they make for the perfect ‘Stay’.
This is the skill that tests how long your dog can just sit in front of you for, with nothing else going on and you being right next to them.
You can teach a dog to ‘Stay’ from any position but a good place to start is from the ‘Sit’ position, it’s easiest. In the previous video you learned to reward your dog for their ‘Sit’ the moment their bottoms hit the floor. To start to build a ‘Stay’ you need to delay the reward. Try counting in your head for 3 seconds and if he’s still in place, reward him.
Now you are ready to build up to more seconds, try counting in your head for 5 seconds. Try varying the amount of seconds you expect your dog to sit and ‘Stay’ for. Let the count creep up to 10 seconds but then next time keep it short, count for only 2 seconds. This keeps your dog from guessing and from getting bored. Once you’ve both had lots of practice and your dog can reliably ‘Stay’ for 10 seconds without moving, it's time to add the word.
Useful Tip: Add the word at the end of the behaviour. You don’t want to risk saying the word first and then have him walk off.
Eventually, with lots of repetition and practice, you’ll be able to say the word first. But don’t go for too long and always keep an eye on whether your dog is getting a bit antsy as he's then likely to move. You always want to go back and reward them before they make a mistake. If they do make a mistake, tell yourself off and start again. Go for a little bit of a shorter ‘Stay’ the next time.
If your dog can do a 30 second ‘Stay’ in front of you, it's time to work on moving away from our dog. Keep the ‘Stay’s’ nice and short. To begin with, you don’t want to just walk backwards from your dog, that would usually draw him to follow and come towards you. Rather begin by taking a few little side steps.
Take some small side steps and say, Yes! Good boy! Then give him a treat. If he’s finding that easy and he’s not moving then try leaning back on one of your legs, leaning back a little further each time. If all’s going well, start taking little baby steps away from him.
Say ‘Stay’ and take 3 small steps. Don’t walk backwards too quickly as that will only draw him towards you, you don't want to force him to make a mistake. As you build on the distance remember to always be fast to reward your dog. You might even throw the treat to them.
It's time to test their 'Stay'. Stand right next to your dog and expect a very short ‘Stay’.
Try some unusual things to make sure he really understands to ‘Stay’. Do something that might normally excite him and make him want to jump up. Show him that he knows his ‘Stay’. Start by doing calm things like turning your back on him and making sure he stays put, then build it up to something sillier, like star jumps.
Step #1: Turn your back on your dog
Step #2: Jump up and down on the spot
Step #3: Pretend to pick something off the floor
Don't forget to reward your dog each time they get it right.
You can build up to a really difficult action like dropping food on the floor which will really test his ‘Stay’ under any circumstance. Eventually, with lots of practice, you can tie all 3 sections together. So, you can be at a distance and he can ‘Stay’ for 30 seconds with something dropped on the floor.
Teaching your dog to ‘Wait’ is similar to teaching ‘Stay’, but they have two different meanings. ‘Stay’’ means: Stay where you are until I come back to release you. ‘Wait’ means: Hold on… I’m going to ask you to do something else.
With ‘Wait’ you may use it to make sure they have manners before going through a door or while you put their food bowl down and then release them to eat their dinner. You do want to make sure that you sometimes go back and reward the ‘Wait’ otherwise they might lose it if they always think you’re going to ask them to do something else.
I hope you found this information useful. If you did, check out more Masterclasses with Lucy in the Lifestyle section of DogLife360.
Check out more dog masterclasses with Lucy Heath.