Question: I’ve been working on the “stay” keyword with my 5 month old mini labradoodle and it just won’t be silent for more than a few seconds. How can I move forward with this part of his training?
Reply: The first thing that crosses my mind when I hear this question is that your dog may be a little too young to learn this command. The basic barometer for starting obedience training is “approximately six months”. The principal here is that at this point a puppy is still too immature to focus. And that particular hint takes quite a focus, which is why this is the very last command of obedience I teach.
Your puppy must first get a certain amount of “puppies” out of its system. Occasionally a puppy is 5 months old ready to address this problem, but more often they are closer to 7 or 8 months old. Especially with your breed. Labrador Retrievers can remain immature for long periods of time. So it really just depends on your dog. I think it’s important not to rush this process.
Last week we talked about your dog just staying in one spot for 30 seconds. The initial training scenario looks like this: You tell Max “stay”, show him the hand signal (this is your hand in the “hold” position), you walk away from him, keep an eye on the clock and when he approaches the 30th -Second mark you are already approaching him with a treat that you put in his mouth at 30 seconds, together with “Good boy, stay!”
Once your puppy shows he can stay in one spot for 30 seconds three or four times, you are probably ready to try for a minute. It is important to mention that short lessons with a positive outcome (reward) are always the best. In other words, don’t let your class take too long.
As I mentioned last week, your dog should be excellent at the “down” signal before starting the stay. Down first requires your own level of discipline. When doing the training for that cue, instead of standing in one spot while Max is in a down / stay, go back and forth a bit. Watching him as you pace up and down teaches him to keep his eyes on you, and you become a visual anchor.
He won’t be certain to see you later, but here we start. For this workout, move frequently in your home and leave it indoors for now. Its familiar environment with few distractions is where you’ll want to start first. At some point, do this workout in a room large enough that you can go in circles around it while it stays.
Your dog will break. It fits the territory. Try to be on time with a “no”! or an “ahh!” when he inevitably does so. Then calmly put it back in place and start over.
Once your dog stays in the lower position for 1 minute and does this reliably several times, now you come to something.
The next milestone is 2 minutes. If Max has paused in the down position for at least four a minute in one place in one day, he is likely ready for a 2-minute sojourn. Four successful times in a day is the basic goal, but you can’t practice this too often.
The idea is to move Max’s time up 1 minute each day. In general, you can be sure that he does the task four times a day, he is ready for the next time step. This is important: move forward only a minute each day. I would warn against jumping with your time. You want to create this incrementally. How to build this particular cue really rock solid. And just because he’s great at 5 minutes doesn’t mean jumping him to 9 isn’t a good idea. Patience is always our best tool in training our dog and if you think about it, theoretically after 30 days your dog will stay in one place for 30 30 minutes.
Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who “teaches dogs and trains people”. Contact him at [email protected] or dogsbestfriendflorida.com.