WHAT IS STAY?
Stay means that your dog maintains both his position and place until you give him another command or release him. In other words, if your dog is sitting and you tell him to stay, he must remain in the sit position in that exact spot. This exercise cannot be attempted until your dog is obeying sit and down promptly with one verbal command, and not popping back up immediately. You must be certain he understands the sit and down commands before he can be expected to learn the stay.
To test this, command your dog to sit. When he does, praise quietly and remain as still as possible beside him while you count to yourself to ten. If your dog moves from the site, you need to practice longer on just the sit. If he remains seated, give appropriate praise and release him. Do the same thing with the down command. He should be calm and relaxed in both positions before you try to teach stay. Don’t rush into this exercise, or you’ll find it very difficult for your dog to learn. If your dog isn’t ready to stay, move on to other exercises while continuing to practice sit and down. Come back to stay in a couple of weeks when your dog is more settled.
You need to understand the stay before you can be expected to teach it to your dog. You need to have a picture in your mind of what you expect him to do. At first, he will have no idea what you want, and if you’re confused about what you’re asking, imagine how confused he must be.
TEACHING THE STAY
There are different methods to use depending on your disability, but everyone should begin the same way. Command your dog to sit. Give appropriate praise. (Always praise your dog for each position, even though another command will follow). Command your dog “stay.”
If you have the physical ability, you may use your hand as a stay signal. With your hand flat, or as flat as you can get it (if your fingers are curled, your dog may think you have food), place your hand, palm first, in front of your dog’s nose. It’s just an extra signal that you can use as you say “stay.” It may act as a barrier in front of your dog. It’s not mandatory; you must decide if it’s a help or a hindrance.
Do not move. Stay as quietly as possible beside your dog and count to yourself to three. Quietly praise or signal “good stay.” Then release your dog. It’s generally easier not to use food on the stay because it can be quite distracting to your dog. But if you do use food, be sure to give the food reward while your dog is staying, before you release him. You want him to know that the reward is for the stay, not for the release.
At this point, your dog has no concept of what he did right, but as you consistently practice, he will begin to get the idea. If he starts to get up or lie down, you are right there to correct him by repeating the sit command firmly and then re-peating the stay command. You can watch him and firmly repeat “stay” if you even think he’s going to move. Remember that firm doesn’t mean loud.
Now, down your dog. Praise for the down. Command “stay” and use your hand signal. Do not move. Count to yourself to three, praise “good stay,” and release. Move around with your dog, and then repeat. This time count to five. If your dog moves before the count of five, go back and practice several times at the count of three until he’s reliable.
If your dog does the sit very well, but won’t stay down, you can teach stay just from the sit position. Keep working on down until he becomes reliable, and then you can work on the down stay. Otherwise, practice stays alternating sit and down positions. Build up the time your dog remains in the stay. Build up slowly until he will stay reliably for one minute. You’re still right next to your dog.
Before you begin to leave your dog, you need to develop a positive attitude that he will do what you tell him. Believe that he is going to stay and he will. That’s why you practice so long on the stay with him right beside you. Both of you gain confidence and poise.
How you teach the stay will depend on your circumstances. We have broken the exercise into four sections: ambulatory, ambulatory with devices, manual wheelchair, and power chair. Turn to the one that is most appropriate for your situation, and read that section. It will give you the steps to teach your dog to stay and will address specific difficulties and solutions for each circumstance.
lEAVING YOUR DOG MANUAL WHEELCHAIR
Remember that your dog is used to going beside you when you roll your chair, and he’s also used to getting out of the way of your chair. That’s why a stay is more difficult to teach from a wheelchair. It will take more patience on your part and perhaps more time. Any time you roll over your dog, you need to express your sympathy in a high pitched, happy voice. If you coddle your dog, it will only reinforce his fear of the wheelchair. Unless he’s hurt, he will snap out of it much faster if you don’t give him a reason to continue crying. And you’ll know if he’s hurt.
Command your dog to sit. Give appropriate praise. Command stay. Be sure to check your dog’s position before you touch your wheels. If he is too close for you to move, release him from the stay and try again. There must be no contact between your dog and your wheelchair. If there is, you must be understanding if your dog gets out of the way.
When he’s positioned so you won’t touch him with the chair, command “stay,” and move the chair forward just the slightest bit, angling away from your dog. You will barely move. Rollback beside your dog and quietly praise—“good stay”—then release him. Move around with your dog and then repeat the sequence.
Gradually increase the time that you spend on this first step until he is staying for a full minute. Now you will roll about a foot forward, angling away from your dog. Immediately roll back beside him and give quiet praise. Then release him.
LEAVING YOUR DOG POWER CHAIR
Remember that your dog is used to moving every time you click the motor on your chair. He either expects to go beside you or he needs to get out of the way. That’s why a stay is more difficult to teach from a wheelchair. It will take more patience on your part and perhaps more time. Any time you roll over your dog, you need to express your sympathy in a high-pitched, happy voice. If you coddle your dog, it will only reinforce his fear of the wheelchair. Unless he’s hurt, he will snap out of it much faster if you don’t give him a reason to continue crying. And you’ll know if he’s hurt.
Command your dog to sit. Give appropriate praise. Command “stay.” Be sure to check your dog’s position before you touch your controls. If he is too close for you to move, release him from the stay and try again. There must be no contact between your dog and your wheelchair. If there is, you must be understanding if your dog gets out of the way.
Keep practicing this until you can stay those few inches away for one minute, and until he does not flinch when you return beside him. This, too, may take from a few days to several weeks. Increase the time slowly. If you do it right and don’t rush, each step will occur more quickly. Your dog is understanding what you want. Remember to praise, using the words “good stay,” while you’re away from him.
Now go forward a few feet, angling to the side away from your dog. Immediately back up beside him. Repeat the stay command. Be very careful not to run over any part of your dog as you return. Quietly praise and release. Build up to one minute. now go forward about four feet and turn your chair at a right angle to him. Be careful that the leash doesn’t pull tight as you go forward.
Don’t hesitate to repeat the stay command and/or signal when you face him. (If you’ve been able to use the hand signal with the stay command, this is when it becomes most helpful. You can simply point your hand, palm first, at your dog as the reminder to stay.) Count to yourself to ten and return beside him. Again, don’t hesitate to repeat the stay as you return to him. Quietly praise and release.
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