ClickerSolutions Training Treasures


I do not use the clicker to teach Stay. Primarily because "stay" is a long duration behavior and the click ends the behavior. It is also largely imprecise. I like to use the clicker for precision. Now if one wants to use the clicker for stay fine...just gradually increase the time the dog is asked to perform the behavior and/or delay the click. I personally don't like this method because the dog is not receiving the rewards for "stay" but when the exercise is over to stregthen the stay get the rewards to the dog in the stay, not after the release (or click).

How I teach stay. For a sit/stay bring the food in from above the dog's head this will keep them sitting. For a down/stay bring the food in low (think horizontal plane with the floor) bring the food in from above and the dog will come up to meet it and end up sitting. Have a handful of tiny treats. Cue the dog to sit or down. Give the dog a treat as you withdraw your hand with the treats cue stay...draw your hand away for just a moment, then go right back and reinforce, then cue stay draw your hand away again. Back in to reinforce before the dog breaks. You may be rewarding literally every second, so what? Gradually you will increase the time interval between rewards. Watch the dog's head if it is about to dip he's going to get up...dogs move their heads before getting up from a sit or down. Watch them and you'll see this (no don't watch them get up when you are practicing stay. LOLOL)

When working stays I work on duration first, so I will have a stay of at least a minute before I add any distance. You have to have duration before you can move away from the dog this is well just "common sense". The first step away from the dog will be the tiniest of half steps, then a whole step and so on. The best trainers on "stay" never have a dog that breaks they are going very s l o w l y. After having a duration for the behavior I add distance and finally distractions. If I increase the difficulty of the exercise by adding a distraction I will make some other aspect of the exercise easier for example I will work right next to the dog.

Now I expect I may hear "but you have added the cue before you have a stay". Good question I'll answer that now. I do have the behavior from the get go because my rate of reinforcement is so high, additionally adding the cue "too soon" doesn't generally confuse the dog in the least it confuses the handler they falsely believe the cue is creating the we don't need to get grey hairs over when to add the cue, it doesn't confuse the dogs in the least.

As one gradually increases the time interval between cookies then one is also gradually reducing the number of "stay cues" so I am not chanting "stay, stay, stay, to my dogs"...they hear "stay" I leave the area for several minutes and return to give them their cookie. It doesn't take all that long to get to this place IF one goes slowly always striving for errorless learning.

If the dog breaks the stay...handler error! O.K. so you made a mistake now what?? Just pause a second or two when the dog is seeking reinforcement generally the dog will come to you when they break a stay. Take them back to the spot they were in when you started, re-cue sit or down (depending on what position you left them in). No cookies right after they break a stay, never interrupt undesirable behavior (breaking the stay) with cookies. Go at least as far as you were when they broke go back in and reinforce. I.E. exercises should not get easier (in the same session) after a "mistake" even if it's the handler's mistake . If the dog is continually breaking the stay - you are going WAY TOO FAST. End the session, reflect on the error of your ways and the next time you work on Stay remind yourself to go much more slowly.

Always remember to tell the dog when the exercise is over...I go back to the dog and tap them and say "release" and encourage them to get up...course mine often do not want to get up as the release is not "party time" they received all of their rewards for "staying".

I would begin this with the lab puppy right away while the rapid fire routine is cute I'd add duration to the behaviors you're adding half seconds right now not asking for 5 minute sit, puppies can learn this quickly.

Recently I worked with a toy poodle...nothing on earth moves faster than a toy poodle . Not sharing this to brag at all believe me there is NOTHING special about me anyone can learn these skills. In about 15 minutes we had the toy poodle holding a down/stay while I went into the kitchen (turning my back to the dog and out of sight) and banged on the wall. Owners were dumbfounded they hadn't seen Fanny sit still for the first year of her life. Every "bang" had always been followed by racing all over the house and barking frantically...not this time. LOLOL

Slow and steady. Reward in the "stay" not after the release, keep the rate of reinforcement really high. Stay happens.

Good luck "ungluing your dog" from his stays, even the little baby pupsters.

Janet A. Smith
copyright 2000 Janet A. Smith


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