Teaching a dog to Stay is simple if your dog has already mastered the Sit command. You'll start off by telling your dog to sit.
The Purpose of the Stay Command
The Stay command has many uses. You will use the Stay command to let your dog know when it is not okay for it to follow or come to you. This can be extremely useful when you want your dog to behave off the leash or when you need to make sure it's not going to be running around your legs, for example when you're carrying something heavy. A lot of Jack Russells have a tendency to bolt unexpectedly, and this can lead to tragedy if you're near an open door - you never know what your dog might run into.
Teaching a Dog To Stay - Preparations
You need to teach the Sit command before teaching a dog to Stay, so if you haven't, work on that first. When your dog can consistently sit on command, it's ready for Stay. Using a leash for teaching this command is optional. Make sure you prepare a few of your dog's favorite treats or its favorite toy as a reward - whatever you think is more effective for your particular dog. Keep the reward on hand so that it can be given immediately as soon as you see the behavior you want. This may make it extra hard for the dog to Stay as it will want to go straight to what you have, so try to conceal it if you can, but remember - if it can Stay when you're holding its favorite toy in front of it, it will Stay under other circumstances when it is tempted to move.
Teaching a Dog To Stay - Action Steps
Start off by telling the dog to Sit. Hold your hand up, palm towards the dog, like a traffic officer giving a "Stop" signal. Say the word "Stay" in a calm, clear, confident voice and start to back away slightly. Repeat the command only if the dog shows signs of starting to move.
As long as the dog stays, even for just a second, reward it quickly. Don't expect much at first. If the dog gets up immediately, you'll have to get involved and gently push its behind back to the ground. Use your hands to put it into the position you want it to Stay in and it will start to get the idea. It's better to let your dog succeed with a short Stay at the beginning than to try to push for a long Stay. Start small and gradually increase the amount of time you want the dog to Stay for. When it can Stay for a few minutes at a time without moving, try increasing the distance you move away from it.
Try to call the dog to you before it breaks the position on its own. Use the Come command and reward the dog for its efforts.
Jack Russell Training Tips
Jack Russells are very affectionate toward their owners, so this command can take some time to teach. They are very tempted to run up and jump all over you. Patience and perseverance are the key.
Some experts have differing opinions on whether or not you should maintain eye contact throughout the training session. It depends on the dog. If your dog looks at you curiously, it's fine to maintain eye contact. If it starts showing signs of submission like bowing its head and creeping, its a sign that the dog interprets your gaze as a sign of dominance, so in this case you will have more success if you don't maintain eye contact.
Don't try to leave your dog in the Stay position too long when it is obviously uncomfortable. Don't expect more than a 30-second Stay from a pup. The whole idea of dog training is to make it hard enough that the dog gets a little better each time, but easy enough that it can win consistently. Always reward good behavior when you are training your dog and remember that your affection is just as important as food rewards and toys.
Voice tone and body language are equally as important as the words you use (hence the hand gesture). Use an authoritative tone, without sounding angry. I explain more about the importance of these factors in my ebook, The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training.
The Next Step
The next step when your dog has mastered the Stay command, is to teach it to Wait before going through gates and doors.