Lyra - 9 months - Active Stay

Now that Lyra has some  nice drive to work with, I am teaching her an "active" stay.

In my training there are two types of stays, and they are distinctly different.

A "passive" stay is boring.  Nothing interesting is going to happen, so go ahead and relax while you wait it out.

An "active" stay is exciting.  Be prepared for an explosive release.

I teach passive stays in my house and often with multiple dogs at the same time.  I make no effort to use motivation on a passive stay; I just need you to stay there.  For a day or two I'll use cookies to help the dog for the first few seconds, but mostly I rely on the fact that I will put the dog back - every time they break - until they figure it out.  If I have to put you back ten times, then that is what I do.  I am gentle; I just return the dog to the spot and the position (usually a sit).  I do not reward the dog when I put them back.  I don't care that much if they enjoy this exercise, as long as they don't dislike it.  I start in my house so there are no fear issues and not much to distract them. I like to use older, experienced dogs in the same group, since I think the trainee learns from the behavior of the other dogs. Within a week or so, most dogs can sit or down and do nothing for a minute or more, whether I'm watching them or not.  I may use cookies here and there, but that is not the reason the dog does the stay - it's because I will repeatedly return them if they break.  Yeah, it's boring but it gets the job done with minimal fuss and they "get it" quickly.

I teach a passive stay when dogs are either older or calmer.  Since Lyra started calm and gets more wired with age, I started her passive stay a few months ago before she was ready for an active stay.  In the house with the other dogs she is pretty good about it.  I never do passive stays with her in a training environment;  I want all "real" training to be high energy and intense at this point.

With puppies that are wired, I rarely bother with a passive stay until they are grown up but I teach the active stay early.

An "active" stay is the opposite.  I teach that to dogs that are in drive and I care very much how they feel about it.  Lyra is ready to learn this now.

An "active" stay means something very interesting is about to happen. It is of a short duration - no more than five seconds or so.  It involves intense attention, distraction, and an exposive release.  If Lyra breaks I get excited as I put her back since I want her to remain in drive.  Whereas in a passive stay I am calm and boring, in an active stay I make sure the dog knows that this is an excting game.

Here is Lyra's third lesson on an active stay.  She breaks in her second attempt so you can see how I handle it.  By her fourth attempt, you can see I'm adding a bit more distraction before releasing her.  Soon I will actively snap the toy around and she will be expected to hold the stay until I release her.  I'll also add a verbal release when the toy is not moving, so that she goes on my command rather than on the action of the toy.

Lyra has had a few more lessons in active stays since this video - she gets it.  Now I can begin to use a "stay" command to set up for recalls, jumps, retrieves and wherever else I might want an explosive release.


Suzanne Lavallee

I remember you teaching me this with Nolita! It was SO much fun! Differentiating the 2 types of stays made it SO clear for both of us…I still teach it this way too. Thanks, D!

Ann Dahlin

This concept was never mentioned to me by any of my instructors in my competitive obedience classes. This is another simple, practical, and very useful idea. One of my friends who trains with you privately said of your lessons, “Denise has so many gold nuggets. I always come away with something really useful.”

But back to active and passive stays. I wish I had done this before I treated all stays the same. Now I have to try to improve her releases to come front etc., because she breaks slowly and it’s hard to get her to move more quickly. It would be nice to have a faster and more active responses coming out of the stays.


WOW, great timing for me on this post as I have a new Sheltie puppy who is extremely active! This concept for me is totally new, so I gave it a try. I’m loving how he is responding to it. It suits this guy to a “T” without his busy self getting all stressed out about having to be motionless for short stints. He can DO it for short stints and is so darn PROUD of himself plus LUVS the chance to burst into play mode right away, then go back and do it again.


actually I do say Stay. it’s the same command for active and passive, though there is good logic for needing a different word.


So happy to see this post at this moment! I’m just thinking about teaching some kind of stay to my 15 mos old puppy for agility, but wasn’t sure how. He’s high energy, and we haven’t introduced any kind of stay. Guessing you use Sit or Down as meaning “to that thing until I ask you to do something else” . . . while using Stay for the passive exercises?

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