Trying to teach stay can be a challenge. For one thing, puppies are wiggly and just don’t understand why you think it’s a good idea they stay put. For another, it can be hard for you (and your dog) to get the concept of keeping those feet in one place. If your dog moves position and your re-set them, did you really re-set him back in the exact spot? Probably not.
Paw targets help solve these problems by giving your dog a “target” of where those feet are supposed to go and stay. They can be used for a sit- or down-stay (two paw targets) or a stand-stay (four paw targets).
What is a paw target? Well, you can buy FITPAWS Targets or you can use a laminated sticky note, coasters, etc. As long as it’s big enough for your dog’s paw and pretty thin, you are good to go.
The only caveat about the FITPAWS is they are big, so your dog has a lot of “wiggle” room in those targets. If you use theirs, you only need one for the front feet and one for the back feet for small to medium breeds.
Using the Targets
First, you will teach your dog to “target” your chosen targets with his front feet (back feet are harder, so do them second if you are teaching a stand-stay).
You can use luring, shaping, or capturing, whichever method works for your dog.
- At first reward your dog for either paw getting on the target.
- As your dog gets better at the game, up the criteria until he is putting both feet on the target.
- If he gets stuck, throw a treat a way from the targets so he has to walk back up to them.
- Once he is consistently coming up and putting both feet on, you can build up duration by rewarding him for staying on them for increasingly longer intervals, releasing with a word (okay, free, release, etc.)
- If he moves, you can easily put him back in position because the targets mark the spot!
Sit- and Down-Stay
Once you have taught your dog that staying on those targets with his front feet is the best thing in the world. You can start working on the stay. Have your dog on the targets, then ask for whichever behavior you are working on (sit or down).
- After he gives you the behavior, reward him, and then follow the above steps for adding duration. Again, the targets make it easy to “reset.”
- When he is consistently staying, you will have to fade the targets (the only downside) but, they really do help with precision stays.
You will follow all the same guidelines as above, but you will have to work on all four feet. It takes longer, but a stand is a great cue to have and it’s used in a lot of performance events including rally, competition obedience, herding, canine freestyle, etc.
About the Author
Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.
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