Want to train your German Shepherd to stay? Start with a really short amount of time, such as 2-3 seconds, and reward your pup with a treat for holding still while he or she is in the stay position. Release your dog with a word and toss a treat, so he or she gets up. Repeat 5-6 times, and end the session.
During training sessions, slowly build up to a longer period of time (such as 5-10 seconds), without changing anything else — don’t move around, don’t increase your distance from your dog, etc. Remember to release your dog with a release word or phrase (“Let’s go!”) when the stay is over! Once your dog is reliably holding a 30-second stay, add a little distance or body movement — pick only one — with the same gradual build-up to the next challenge.
Let’s break down stay training:
Never ask your German shepherd to stay for a longer period of time than he/she can. If your dog wants to break a stay after 2 seconds, feed a treat and release after 1 second. Your job as the trainer is to make the dog think it’s fun to wait for a treat!
Go nuts with the treats. One treat each second the dog stays is a good starting duration! We want the dog to think that staying put was the best idea she’s ever had. Of course you will start to slow the rate you give treats, as your dog learns to stay put.
If your dog breaks a stay, ask yourself how long she stayed, and what else was happening in the area. Did she stay for 10 seconds, but not 15? Or did she get up when the neighborhood cat came by? You have to release your dog before you think she will get up. If you feel tempted to say “stay” to your dog again, go back and feed her.
The more distance between you and your dog during a stay, the more treats she should get when you return. A fun game to play is “Four steps away equals four treats, one step equals one treat,” and so on. Your dog will start to hope you go farther away, so she gets more treats!
Instead of backing away from your dog to make the stay harder, start by turning your back. In a real-life situation, we would turn and walk away.
My preference is to always return to my GSD before I release him, rather than calling my dog to me from a stay. I don’t want my dog wondering when he can get up and come find me — I want him thinking about how many treats he’ll get when I get back!
If your dog breaks a stay, you have increased the difficulty too much, or too quickly, or both. Go back to the last place your dog had success, and work from there.