Get Your Stays Off to a Good Start: Foundation Games!

December 5, 2020

There are several fun foundation games that can help you dog’s stay get off to a solid start!  If your stays need work, or if you’re training a young dog that doesn’t know stays yet, try these games to help increase your dog’s understanding of being still!


Sit Game

The sit game will introduce the concept of staying in one position to the dog, and is an important foundation game for stays.  Dogs generally catch onto the game very quickly, and you can add variations to the game as you need.


Treats from Above

The first step for the sit game is to either cue the sit or let the dog offer the sit.  As soon as the dog sits, put your hand with a treat in it high above the dog’s head and quickly lower the treat toward the dog.  If the dog jumps up toward the treat, raise your hand up away from the dog.  I like to watch the dog’s front feet – if both feet leave the ground the treat goes away from the dog.  I want the dog to think that his jumping up caused the treat to go away.  As soon as the dog sits again, the treat lowers toward the dog.

In the beginning stages, I move fairly quickly with the treat so the dog can be successful, but it doesn’t take long for the dog to catch on.  I quickly raise criteria by slowing down the treat, and eventually moving it around and teasing the dog a little bit.  During this whole time, I’m building on success, always making it easier if the dog struggles.


Rapid Treats

I first teach the stay concept by feeding the dog quickly in position.  I am essentially keeping the dog in position by feeding one treat after the other.  If the dog gets out of position, I simply stop feeding the treats, re-cue the position, then resume feeding.

As the dog’s position starts to get more solid, I will start slowing down the rate of treats.

Here is the first step of this game:


Here you can see that we are slowing down the rate of the treats as the dog gets more solid.



Slow Treats

When the dog understands the game with the treats coming from above and rapid treats, you can start playing the slow treats game.  At this point, I start moving the treats toward the dog from the front.  If the dog breaks position, I move the treat away and start moving toward the dog again when he resumes the sit.  As the dog is successful, I will increase the difficulty.

In this video, I start with treats from above.  As Excel does well, I switch to slow treats.  You can see how I move the treats away if he tries to move toward me.


As your dog catches on, you can make your treat delivery a little more exciting.  If at any time, the dog moves toward the treat, pull the treat away and reset your dog if needed.  Be sure to make it easier on the next repetition to ensure that you’re building on success.

You can use these games to practice other positions also, like down and stand.


Rapid Treats in a Down:


Rapid Treats in a Stand:


Slow Treats in a Down:


Slow Treats in a Stand:


Once your dog understands these games, you will be well on your way to a solid stay!

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