How to Teach Your Dog to Sit & Stay


get your dog to stay

I never thought teaching my dog to stay could be so useful—until I asked my cattle dog mix, Uli, to jump on top of a fire hydrant while taking engagement photos. I had never realized how well I was able to teach her to stay until I cued her to jump onto that fire hydrant—and she stayed there long enough to take pictures from just about every angle. 

 While training your dog to perch on fire hydrants is more of an advanced trick, teaching your dog to sit & stay in just about any situation brings many benefits to the dog-human relationship, including safety. While dogs can learn a variety of tricks, teaching your dog to sit, stay, and come, could actually save their life in an unexpected situation.  

How to Teach a Dog to Sit & Stay in 10 Steps

Step 1: Prepare a Quiet Space

Find a quiet, distraction-free area for training to help your dog focus.

Step 2: Gather Treats and Clicker

Get some tasty treats and a clicker for positive reinforcement.

Step 3: Position Your Dog

Stand in front of your dog, holding a treat close to their nose.

Step 4: Say "Sit"

Use the command "sit" in a clear, firm voice while raising the treat.

Step 5: Guide Their Movement

Slowly move the treat over their head, encouraging them to sit.

Step 6: Praise and Reward

As soon as your dog sits, click the clicker and reward with a treat.

Step 7: Repeat and Stay

Practice this command, gradually extending the "stay" duration.

Step 8: Gradually Add Distance

Start taking a step back while asking your dog to stay.

Step 9: Use the Stay Command

Find a quiet, distraction-free area for training to help your dog focus.

Step 10:  Practice Regularly

Consistent training and positive reinforcement will help your dog master sitting and staying.

Tips For Teaching the “Sit” & “Stay” Commands

Use High-Value Rewards: Reward your dog with treats or toys they love when they successfully sit or stay. High-value rewards motivate them to learn. 

Short, Frequent Sessions: Keep training sessions short (around 10-15 minutes) and frequent. Dogs have shorter attention spans, so regular practice is more effective. 

Positive Reinforcement: Praise and affection are essential. Shower your dog with love when they follow the sit or stay command correctly. 

Gradual Increases: Slowly increase the time and distance for "stay" commands. This helps your dog master the skill without feeling overwhelmed.

When my clients tell me that their dog only knows to stay in their living room, my first thought is, “That’s because you didn’t do a good enough job of proofing!” 

What is proofing? Proofing is simply reinforcing a behavior by practicing it under different variables. The four most common variables of training are:

  • Distance
  • Distraction
  • Duration
  • Location 

Practicing these four variables of training with cues will make them reliable in just about any circumstance. And proofing can be fun! Here are some tips for success: 

  • Practice when your dog is already tired. If your dog hasn’t had a good run all day, it’s probably not the best time to teach him to stay as it requires so much impulse control. Before working on heavy stays, make sure to take the edge off of your dog by going for a long walk, playing a rousing game of fetch, or having a romp in the dog park.
  • Leash it up. Have a dog that breaks his stays and walks away? Make sure that you set yourself up for success by keeping your dog on a leash until he is more solid. That way, if the dog gets up, you can redirect him back to the area where you told him to stay and begin again.
  • Treats matter!!! It’s no secret that dogs love treats. And if you’ve never noticed that dogs have preferences, put a pile of kibble next to a meatball and see which your dog chooses. So, if you find you are having trouble teaching your dog to stay, up the ante by bringing out a better treat. But treats don’t always have to be food. Some dogs are more motivated by balls, games of tug, or kind words of encouragement than they are by food. So, think about what’s really important to your dog, and work it into your training session as reinforcement for a job well done.

Where to Practice the “Stay” Command

One of the best parts of training your dog is the opportunity to get out into the world and practice with your best buddy. Where should you practice? The sky’s the limit, but my favorite spots include: 

  • The site of your favorite hobby. Hobbies are best when shared with your dog! I’m an avid horseback rider. There’s nothing I like more than spending the day with my two favorite friends: my dog, Uli, and my horse, Hilde. But there are times that when I’m on Hilde’s back, I need to have Uli stay and wait before crossing a street or while a hiker passes us. In these instances, I’m glad I have thoroughly trained her to stay. So, whatever your hobby is, whether it’s hiking in the woods, brunching in the city, or sailing on the sea, I’ll bet you can find a place where teaching your dog to stay would be extremely helpful.
  • Your local pet store. Who doesn’t love the pet store? So many new friends just waiting to be met, smells to smell, and toys to squeak. But if your dog can’t behave, you won’t have a great time in this super-fun place. Try using your local pet store to practice teaching your dog—having him stay while you look at all of the cool stuff that will be draining your wallet! 
  • Anywhere outdoors. The foundation for teaching your dog to stay is largely done indoors. But the intent behind practicing obedience is usually to get ready for romps outside. If you’ve never practiced outside, how do you expect your dog to be able to hold it together? Once you teach your dog to stay in your home, get outside! Nature is often the best source of distractions. Ask your dog to stay every time he sees a squirrel, a neighbor, or a fellow hiker if you are out in the woods. The SpotOn fence can help keep your pup contained while they’re still learning. 
  • In your local park. Between picnickers, dog friends, and small furry creatures, local parks are usually jam-packed with distractions. Practice with your dog by having him sit and stay until released before playing with a pup buddy, or making a new human friend!
  • In your foyer. This can easily be the most exciting place in the house. I mean, the front door is there! The same front door that opens to both let exciting people in, and let excited dogs out to the car or for walks! Get your dog thinking about good habits by training him to sit and stay before you exit, or when new people come in. Helpful hint: if your pup gets too excited to stay while people come in the door, break it down—teach your dog to stay in the foyer with no distractions first. Add distractions in gradually as your dog gets more solid.

By Nicole Skeehan

Photo credit: April Ziegler Photography



Want to give it a try?

Watch these videos and teach your dog to stay!

 sit stay one

Video 1: Four easy steps to a solid stay.

sit stay two

Video 2: Teaching distance

sit stay three

Video 3: Overcoming Distractions

sit stay four

Video 4: Staying put outdoors

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published