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Susan S. wrote to ask what is the best way to teach her Field Spaniel puppy to stay.

To teach your puppy “stay,” the most important thing to remember is to take it in baby steps. Too many owners make the mistake of turning it into an endurance contest: how long can the puppy stay before he moves?

Start by putting the dog into a sit (if your dog doesn’t yet know “sit,” find tips here) at your side. Tell him “stay,” and, if you are lucky, you will be able to stand upright right next to him without him moving. Don’t try to walk 10 feet away. You need to be within touching distance to praise and reward him. But pay attention! If he gets up before the reward gets to his mouth, quickly retract it, and remind him to sit again, in the very same spot. It’s very easy to reward the dog for getting up instead of staying.

When your puppy stays while you are close enough to touch him, move a short step away. Don’t ask him to stay longer than a few seconds; it’s important that you be the one who decides when the stay is over, and you want him to succeed. Go back to him and reward with treats while he is staying in place.


Gradually add distance and time (and eventually, distractions). If, at any point, it becomes difficult for the dog, move closer to him and lessen the time you are asking him to stay.

When the stay is over, release your puppy by tossing a treat or toy. You can say “Okay!” or “All done!” in a playful way. Be sure he gets up and goes after the treat or toy, so that he knows he’s free to do what he wants.

Our dogs are cherished members of our families, sharing our lives and providing unconditional love. But all dog owners know that our canine partners have different perspectives on life than our human family members.

If you have ever asked, “Why does my dog do that?” then this feature is for you. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline training team will answer your questions on dogs’ behavior and offer training advice to help you and your dog have the best relationship possible. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline is a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by professional dog trainers. For more information on the service and how to enroll, go to