Since the beginning of training dogs, people have used the word stay and shoved an open hand in the face of their dog to make them stay in place or whatever position they’re in. So, why the heck do I have the audacity to not teach or use the word stay when working with clients and their dogs? Simply put, using the word “stay” is absolutely pointless.
Let me explain.
You see, the way I look at it, “sit”, “down”, “place”, and “crate” are ALL implied stays. In other words, if I tell a dog to “down”, staying in that down is implied. Down means lie down until I give a release word to get up, or give another command. There is no reason to get up unless I tell them to, and when I teach my clients to work with their dogs, I instruct them to do the same.
There is another reason I don’t like to use the word stay. It can confuse a dog during training and creates an extra step because it is used in relation to 3 or 4 different positions. For example, let’s say I take the time to teach a dog “place” (go to your bed) and use the word “stay” to imply “do not get off” and they do great. Awesome, right? Okay so now I teach that dog “sit” and when I use the word “stay”, they get up and go to their bed. Are they wrong? No! They are correct because they have associated the word “stay” with staying on the bed, just like I’ve taught them. However, obviously this is not what I want. So, what do I do? If I correct them, I run the risk of creating negative associations with a behavior I want them to do. If I do not correct them, it will take much longer to work around the confusion. Do you see the dilemma?
Obviously, dogs have been taught and told to “stay” and the word has been used forever and even in competition obedience. I’m not suggesting that it is impossible to teach or use. But, what I am saying is, what’s the point and why make things more difficult?
To shorten the learning curve and keep things simple (which is preferred in any training or teaching), just use two words – “sit” to tell the dog to sit, and a release word to tell them they can get up. It’s that simple. Instead of “sit”, “stay”…. “free” it’s just “sit”… “free”. And, when I’m training a dog to “down”, for example, I reinforce the word “down” by saying it and then petting, praising or rewarding with food. This keeps the focus on DOWN and eliminates possible confusion.
With all that said, please don’t panic or stress. I’m not telling you that you’re ruining your dog or he’ll lose sleep over it (and neither should you). I just think it’s worth mentioning. English or any spoken language is not a dog’s native language, so using lots of different words when training can and absolutely will create confusion.