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Pose, Stay, Say cheese

Dog stay on branch
Dog stay on branch - long shot

I have never deliberately tried to get her to hold a pose (other than sit) specifically for a photo, and certainly never at a great distance away. So this photo is a first time for me.

We were just out for a walk.

Nothing special.

If we took photos, we took photos. If we didn’t, we didn’t.

But I was in the mood, and look at her face. She was in the zone!

She knew she was going to get treats, got excited and started jumping up against the tree. On the wrong side.

It helped that I could direct her to the spot and direction I want her to be with her following my fingers using the Nose cue. That she knows I want her to climb on something when I say Up. We do that a lot for doggy parkour.

There wasn’t a lot of distraction, just a playground with children playing, random joggers and cyclists. They are not strong distractions for her.

She didn’t use to Stay that well.

When we first got her, I couldn’t get her to understand the concept of staying, she wanted to follow me instead of stay. Of course it made sense to her. The treats were with me and they were moving further away from her because I moved further away from her.

But somehow, when I tried to teach her to stay on her bed it helped her to grasp the concept more easily. The bed just had a sort of anchoring effect for her that I couldn’t explain. She mastered stay with phenomenal speed (compared to previously) after that. We practiced it consistently at every meal. I would send her to her bed and ask her to stay before I go mix her kibble and canned food in the kitchen.  Nowadays I don’t bother to do that, but she makes a run for her crate anyway.

It sounds quite structured because I basically followed the textbook when it came to positive training.

  • Set the dog up for success so he will feel confident and find training fun and rewarding.
  • Don’t scold or punish the dog because make it less fun for him and he could become more hesitant to try for fear of doing wrong.
  • Keep it short so that the dog looks forward to the next training session.
  • Slowly raise the level of distraction, so that it doesn’t get too difficult for your dog suddenly. That sets him out for failure instead.

The consistent repetition day in and out started to make following the Stay command a habit for her. It was time to move her to a slightly more distracting environment.

So every morning we went to this fitness corner. It was outdoor but still enclosed by walls up to waist height and seldom used.

Dog stay on step up platform in fitness corner

I would ask Donna to sit on one of these step up platforms and stay as I walk a wide circle around her. She would sit, but her head would follow me as I walked around. And if she couldn’t see me she would stand and peer at me around the board that lines one side of the steps. It mattered to her that she should be able to see me. It didn’t matter to me that much that she stood to peer, although I preferred her to sit. As long as she stayed on the platform step, I left her be.

There were times when I took it too far and she grew impatient as I circled. That’s when she would stand up from her Sit, panting a little, perhaps break her stay. I guided her back and released her much faster after that hoping that that meant the training ends on a successful note. :P Don’t know if that’s really the case. Haha!

I started with small rounds, rewarding her with treats every time I come back to her from my circling.

As the weeks passed, and she got better at sit-stay there, I widened my circles around her.

It took time, but eventually I lengthened the time she stayed by increasing the number of circles I walked around her. It helped me a lot because walking occupied me. I don’t like standing around waiting for time to pass as she stayed. I wouldn’t be consistent doing something I don’t find fun.

More and more, she stays on the step.

Then it was time to go to an even more distracting environment. A nearby park that is quiet but much more open than the fitness corner was. I felt I have less control here because there was always the possibility of someone walking a dog that would distract Donna. I didn’t want her running off since she wasn’t very good being off-lead or having a strong recall then. So I started with her close to me on the lead, until I was comfortable enough to put distance between us.

Dog stay on stool

Around the same time, we start working on off-leash heel and recall again in the same low distraction environments mentioned earlier.

I wasn’t ready to walk her off-lead in the park then, but I felt comfortable enough to have her sit-stay un-tethered to my hand for short periods, knowing that her stay was pretty strong by then.

Dog stay on table

Nowadays, her sit-stay is strong enough that I can finally take the type of long distance photos that Jen K. does with her Newfoundland dogs.

And then I realised, perhaps because Donna is smaller and less fluffy, she just doesn’t have the type of presence that the Newfies have in a distance shot. Oh jeez… :P

Dog stay on wall

Note: The Sit-stay is great at home. She used to run to the front door when someone walks past or rings the door bell. But not everyone wants to be greeted by a dog, even if she is friendly. It was easy enough to practise Sit-stay with her in the crate with zero distraction at first as part of crate training. Eventually, she got good at it so that even when the door bell rings, she would go and stay in the crate when instructed. Nowadays, when she hears the door bell ring, she rushes to the living room in a hurry but heads for her crate.

I am not a trainer. I am just recording what I did with my dog, what worked and what didn’t. It probably also helped a lot that my dog is very food-motivated and has an almost non-existent prey drive. 


Nail Cutting and Chicken




  1. Those are awesome photos! Nicely done! Your stay strategy sounds so similar to ours – build up slowly, pick locations wisely, reward success and replace if you’ve pushed it too far. Love it! And I happen to think Donna always has a commanding presence :)

  2. I’m real good with staying for photos, but I love the camera. If I see Mom pick up her camera at home, I usually follow her because I am hoping for a photo shoot. Your photos look great, she is a natural at it I would say.

  3. With that climbing ability, Donna may be part squirrel.

  4. What great photos!! I love that tree too. It is just the perfect amount of “gnarly” look.

  5. What beautiful photo’s – my favorite is the last one What gorgeous stone steps and scenery. I would love for either of my Boys to understand the nose cue. I’m that pet parent whose always begging them to do what I ask. HA! Nice to have found you!

  6. Welcome back! Ruckus and I have missed your educational posts!- Ruckus the Eskie

  7. Good job and very nice photos! There are different ways to successfully teach “stay”. Some people start teaching “stay” by moving away slowly – but since the dog doesn’t know what “stay” means, it is natural for them to follow your body language. I teach the dog that “stay” means do not move by standing still and clicking and treating the dog for not moving. I increase the amount of time between clicks until the dog is staying for a full minute before I say “ok” (release word) and then move away. After they understand that “stay” means do not move, I slowly add distance and distractions in small amounts for shorter duration at successive sessions. You are absolutely right to end your training on a positive note and also slowly increasing the duration, distance and distractions (the 3 D’s in trainer talk – lol). Taking small steps in increasing the 3 D’s one at a time is setting the dog up for success. Congratulations to you and Donna for mastering the “stay”! :)

  8. Love the way Donna poses in every photo. Nice compositions, love the greens in the landscapes.

  9. I began to realise just how important this basic discipline is when I saw a story about the dogs they used to help with the eradication of rabbits from Macquarie Island. The first hurdle they had to train for was the penguins – the dogs had to learn to totally disregard them. Such an achievement. You and your girl should be well pleased with yourselves.

  10. The pictures are wonderful. We are still working on stay…lol.

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