Stay Proofing

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When you have a lightning-quick emergency Sit plus a rock-solid unbreakable Sit-Stay, you have a pretty well-trained dog that will have a better quality of life because people will welcome his integration into the social scene.

Proofing stays comprises increasing duration, distance, and distractions. Start by teaching short stays simply by delaying the food reward after a position change and counting out time in “good dogs” — “good dog one, good dog two, good dog three etc.” Alternate periods of instructive feedback — "Good Sit-Stay Rover" — with short periods of silent appreciation. With each successive trial, gradually decrease the amount of praise and increase the length of silence.

Most dogs will give you lots of warning that they are about to break the stay; first they look away, then they sniff away, and then they go away. So, if your dog looks away from you, or if he even looks like he is about to break a sit-stay, for example, simply re-instruct your dog, “Rover, Sit!” No need to shout, but do create a sense of urgency and quickly get your dog sitting again. Even though he has moved out of body position, do not give him time to move from the spot. Get him back sitting as quickly as possible and praise him as soon as he sits again. Only use your voice as an instructive reprimand. Never use your hands to re-position your dog, otherwise it will be a longtime before you have any distance control over your dog.

Always train with a stopwatch, so you have a good objective grasp of your dog’s reliability. Remember, to practice at least three types of stay — sit-stay, down-stay and stand-stay. Do not forget stand-stays. You will find that the more you practice stand-stays, the more rock-solid your dog’s sit- and down-stays. Practice standing toe-to-toe in front of your dog, until your dog comfortably performs a 30 second stand-stay, a one-minute sit-stay and a three-minute sown-stay.

Now it’s time to gradually and progressively increase distance. Take one step back and after just one second return to your dog and praise him. After every successful short proofing episode, always return to the toe-to-toe position and praise your dog to “capture” the stay. Then take two steps back and after two seconds return to your dog and praise. Then take three steps back and after three seconds return to your dog and praise. With each successive trial, gradually increase the distance. Should your dog look like he is about to break, immediately re-instruct him to “Sit.” This is why we taught distance position changes before teaching stays. Unless you have an arm like Inspector Gadget, verbal commands are the only way to immediately correct and reposition your dog at a distance.

Now it’s time to gradually and progressively increase distractions. Of course by increasing the distance and distractions in this fashion, the cumulative duration will increase dramatically. First we to get the dog used to silly and unexpected things that we do. Most dogs will break a stay if the owner simply gets down on the ground and rolls over. This is not good enough. We want the dog to reliably stay when around children and children spend a lot of time jumping, skipping, shouting and rolling on the floor. So, let’s gradually proof the dog to stay when we move slowly, quickly, when we jump, clap our hands, laugh, sing, and perform all sorts of silly walks and actions. Remember, after each incremental proofing episode, return to your dog and praise. After thirty minutes or so, your dog should be able to remain in a sit-stay while you kneel down, approach your dog on all fours, kiss him on his nose, rollover, waggle your arms and legs in the air, squeak, and then stand up to return to your dog and praise.

Now comes the fun part, you are going to praise your dog for staying, while other people try to get your dog to break. Check out Musical Chairs competition in the K9 GAMES.

Index
Training:  Stay Proofing