Bruce Lee, Minimalism and the Stay Sandwich
Updated: Feb 18
Many clients ask why I don't teach "Stay", which is fair enough given that this command is and has been a mainstay of dog training for as long as there have been conversations on the topic.
It's just something you do-the natural progression from learning sit and down.
Even today many high profile trainers will describe a sit command as a "sit-stay", and down "down-stay".
That's a little closer to where I like to be, though in life and especially dog training often I find that the simpler we can make something, the better. It's just easier on the dog and ourselves that way.
If I may show a side to my nerdiness, let me take a quick trip back to my childhood as an aspiring martial artist.
Having read every book available by and about Bruce Lee, I still often seek to apply many of his philosophies in daily life.
The Master was a huge proponent of simplicity leading to effectiveness, on and off the mat. It is from this philosophy that we find that the "Stay" command is not only unnecessary, but counterproductive in training.
Just as certain fighting techniques are now considered outdated, the "Stay" needs to be left by the wayside as we advance our understanding of our dogs and how to train with them.
Simplicity AND Effectiveness, remember? I didn't say your dog will never stay in a command again.
Simplifying is often at first counterintuitive:
"How will my dog know to stay in his down if I don't tell him?".
No dog owner ever puts their dog in a down with the intent of allowing the dog to make the decision on when the down is over-that's just poor leadership of our pack, and they deserve much better.
As such, when given a command the "Stay" part of it is implied.
By removing the verbal command to "Stay" and NOT adding it on top of a prior "Sit" or "Down", etc, we simplify our and our dog's lives, while removing something unessential. Superfluous commands, verbalizations and body language only serve to confuse, and distract from the job at hand.
Communication and boundaries allow for a happier, more confident dog as well as a better relationship.
Attaching a secondary command ("Stay") to multiple other commands ("Sit", "Down", "Climb") muddies the water by lessening the distinctions between any commands the stay is attached to-making our job harder and lengthening the learning curve in training.
Removing the verbal "Stay" from our training regimen frees up valuable training time and mental processing power, allowing us to do more with less. Therefore "Climb" means "climb until given another task, or free'd up to do whatever you please".
The Practical Part: When training any new command we teach the dog to maintain said command until given the next one.
As such, the stay is baked into sit or down or whatever, without the problem of layering commands ("Sit. Stay. Staaayyy... Stay. Good dog! No! Dammitcomebackhere!") and confusing the dog.
By removing the verbal "Stay" and teaching commands that are to be maintained until the next is given (which includes "Free!"), we are able to cut out unnecessary clutter while improving communication, confidence and our relationship with our K9s.
We do this by proofing the command-all part of our balanced training philosophy. As soon as a command is broken (butt scooting while in a sit, moving off the cot or elevated surface while in a climb, etc...) a correction is given and the dog is re-commanded.
This is a "No"-Correction-Command sequence that just says "That's not what I told you to do, stop what you're doing, do this instead".
Simple and Effective communication leading to a happier more confident and obedient dog, and thus a happier and more confident pack leader: You!