Re: The concept of "stay"
I teach a stay way different now than I used to. I used to teach it similar to what's been described - very small increments of change in distance and time until the dog really understood what "stay" meant. I still think those small increments are vitally important - if everyone training their dog would really think about the behavior they're training and then break it into tiny steps, accepting and rewarding each tiny progression on the part of their dog, they'd be able to teach their dog almost anything. The problem is that people get impatient and they have expectations of the dog's understanding that is truly beyond what the dog can do.
I really like having my dogs figure things out for themselves, so I teach the stay in a way that makes the dog realize that movement takes away all possibility of reward. And I do that by using visible food on the floor from the very first session.
I have the dog at my left side, with a flat collar on (leash is optional, usually on but not necessary if you're training alone). I usually place the dog in a sitting position when I first train this behavior. My left hand is in the back of the dog's collar, palm up, holding onto the collar firmly. I take 4-5 small yummy treats in my right hand and I reach out in front of the dog and place the treats on the floor. I don't say "stay" (the dog wouldn't understand it anyway, and I don't ever want to pair "stay" with the dog moving so the command isn't given until the dog has learned the behavior).
Most of the time the dog will immediately try to go to the treats. I simply remain quiet, using the collar to hold the dog back, and never EVER allowing the dog to reach the treats. I wait while the dog attempts to get to the treats. I let the dog be frustrated - it's a good life lesson, you don't always get what you want .. *L*. And it generally doesn't take but half a minute or so before the dog stops and realizes that they're not going to be allowed to move to the treats. And at that point they usually do one of a couple things - they stop and look at the person, or they sit or lay down.
If they return to the sit, that's immediately praised and I reach forward to grab a treat (quickly!) and stuff it in the dog's mouth. If the dog remains in position, the praising/treating continues without hesitation until the treats are gone. If the dog breaks the position, all verbal communication and treats stop immediately. And then I wait again for the dog to figure out that they have to return to position to get the remaining treats.
On occasion a dog just won't sit. If it takes longer than a minute and a half (which, if you count it out, is quite a bit of time) then I will gently place the dog back into a sit. I don't nag it with "sit! sit! sit!" because that's not what's important at this time. I gently ease it back into a sit and then praise as soon as the butt is down, following that with quick treats as long as the butt stays down. If the butt comes up or the dog lays down, I stop and wait for the dog to think about what has changed and how to "fix" it so that the praise and treats will resume.
I know that a lot of people will read this and think "what an odd way to teach a stay!" but in all honesty, this is the neatest thing to do especially with puppies. We teach 8-12 week old puppies this stay and they will have it figured out at the end of the FIRST session! All the dogs I've ever taught like this have a really good concept of stay meaning "don't move!". They've already tried moving and found that it doesn't work, and that the only thing that brought the treats to them was to stay rock-still.
Once the dog figures out that staying still is the key, then the handler can increase duration (wait for the dog's butt to stay in a sit for five seconds between treats instead of rewarding continuously, then wait for 7 seconds, then 10, etc.) and then you can increase distance (start placing the treats a bit farther away, and then farther, and then to the point of having to leave the dog to place the treats). The dog is so focused on the concept of not being able to move because they never get the treats if they move that it's rare (if done properly) to ever have a dog break a stay.
And as you continue on, you still put the treats out but then treat from your pocket instead, and end with picking up the treats and putting them away so that the dog starts to realize that the treats will come from you instead and those treats on the floor aren't necessarily what they'll get. And when you start moving away, you have to make sure you can always reach any treats on the ground BEFORE your dog does even if that means you have to step on them. After a bit, you just put out one treat, and then no treats (but still treating from your pocket or from a bag of treats on a table, etc.).
The neat thing about this way of teaching stay is that it transfers beautifully to any position - down, sit, stand. When I taught Khana the stand-stay, I simply put a treat down in front of her and she immediately focused (in her head I could see her thinking "woah, I know this one! I don't move!" since she'd already been taught a regular stay). From day one I never had any problems with her moving on the stand-stay, even though she really wanted to visit with the people approaching her. The treat gave her something to focus on, and when she stayed still when a person approached, I immediately praised and brought the treat forward to her mouth for reward. And once she understood, I started treating her from my pocket and then was able to switch to treating her after the entire exercise (stand, stay, leave the dog, examination by stranger, return to dog, release from stay - THEN praise and treat).
By the age of 2 1/2, Khana had been in the performance ring 13 times, with 12 qualifying scores (RN, RA, RE, CD - one time she peed in the ring for an NQ) and never a break on any stay.
Melanie and the gang
Positive 1ST! More reward, less correction makes a GREAT trainer.
Chows: Khana CD RE SD & Dora NA NAJ GSD: Tazer SDIT
Total of 2UDs 3CDXs 12CDs 2REs 8AgilityTitles 1BH Chow!
20 Yrs Training/Teaching Experience