It seems to me that too many dogs find the stay command a crime against nature and to be fair it isn't my favorite command either, however, I would like to tell all dogs and puppies out there that there is no better command to prove your trust in your human than the 'stay'. All you humans may be asking at this very moment, "What does trust have to do with this command?"
If your dog doesn't trust your ability to lead or handle whatever situation comes along he will feel no compulsion to stay put when you ask him to. Now please don't confuse trust with love or respect. There is no doubt that your best bud loves you to death. After all, what else could that crazy happy greeting dance he gives you when you walk in the door mean? And a human can be respected for their seemingly magic ability to produce the good things in life like food, water and awesome squeaky toys. But trust is born of demonstrated ability to handle first and foremost themselves, the dog himself and whatever situation arises to protect both members of the team. A handler that conveys confidence and understanding, mental as well as physical strength and shows the ability to make quick decisive decisions with proper restraint is a handler that a dog can trust to make the best and wisest decisions and guide their "pack" through troubling and dangerous situations. Dogs with handlers like these have little to worry about except being a dog. With the right handler dominant dogs will find themselves relaxed and a great deal less worried about having to maintain a hierarchy. Fearful dogs can gain and demonstrate a confidence they might never have attained without the confidence and skills of a good understanding handler and a normal confident dog can learn to do just about anything he is asked to in just about any situation or place. That said, a handler needs to always remember that trust is never given overnight. It takes time, patience and understanding. Your responses to the dog and situations must always be consistent and level headed with a certain amount of respect for what the "pack" can and can't achieve.
So how do we apply all this to the stay command? Easy.
Let's begin by using the stay with the sit command since your dog probably knows this command the best. It is always best to begin when it is quiet and there are no distractions. Using your voice (hopefully) and hand signal with a treat, call your dog's name and then ask him to sit. Immediately praise and reward when he does and as he is eating his treat quickly give him the hand signal which most traditionally will be to hold your hand in front of the dog's face, palm towards him just like a cop signaling to stop. Make a big effort not to leave your hand up. Give the signal and then drop your arm back to your side or against your body. People who leave their hand out in the stay signal will find that their dog begins to think that as long as the hand is out they should stay but when they drop it the dog thinks he can get up since in his mind you are no longer signaling to stay. Grab another treat and if he remained in the sitting position for that brief second reward him with a new treat and verbal praise "Good stay! Good boy!". Emphasize the "stay" in your praise. Release him with your release word after you have praised and rewarded him and then try again. We want to treat and praise the pup while he is still in the stay so he learns that remaining in position is what gets the reward, not moving. Dogs that are rewarded after the release often become 'butt poppers'. As soon as they hear "stay" they pop up expecting their treat! Once you're getting some reliability for very short term stays you can begin to use the word "Stay" with the hand signal. To make his stays longer have several treats readily available and in a very short space of time treat and verbally praise every other second or so. Does that sound familiar? It should. I introduced it in the sit command for building better sits! As long as he just sits and waits for the next one he is still in a "stay" and can be reminded he is with that "Good stay" praise. Remember that he is not done until he hears the release word so you could go on reinforcing his not moving as long as he sits there and he shouldn't pop up. As you build the duration he will sit there as long as you're offering treats, you'll want to gradually build up the time between each treat. Start waiting several seconds or more on a regular basis between the "praise&treats". What this does is help make your stays longer in general and in the long run do it with less treat! As he gets even better you'll begin to even vary when he gets the treat part of the reward. (Remember this? Praise&treat, praise, praise&treat, praise...) As always remember to begin the fading process for the hand signal only after he has a good idea of what is expected in the exercise. Once your collie has a good concept that stay means not to move you can begin to introduce the stay command in the down as well just the same way.
Please remember the ideal is to always end up releasing the dog before he has an opportunity to decide to break position first so you do as little correcting as possible. Remember that we can't correct a dog for not doing something he doesn't know how to do yet. And think ahead. If something comes your way you know he won't be able to stay through, then praise him and release him before it becomes to much of a temptation.
And don't worry about teaching the stay with you moving away yet. With a collie that comes pretty quickly once they understand the basics of the command. Right now you can't possibly ask a dog or puppy to sit stay for the 20 seconds it takes to walk to the end of the room and back if he can't even sit stay next to you for 20 seconds!
1. Don't constantly increase the time you have the dog remain in the stay command but remember to intermittently give a treat while he is in that stay. Vary it from one time to another. 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 2 seconds, 20 seconds... When you constantly work on the same time or always increase it, your dog can begin to develop a "time sense". He will begin to anticipate the release and get up before you actually release him. Its the same as when a dog gets up and stands by the door five minutes before the kids get home from school everyday. Collies are notorious for developing a keen time sense. Eric Knight's classic story "Lassie Come Home" is not so far fetched as some people may believe! When you vary the time, your dog will view the stay command more appropriately like this... "I have to stay but I don't how long so I'll just stay until he tells me I'm done." Your collie will look at a 10 second stay the same as a 30 second stay and that will be no different than a 2 minute stay. Just be patient and take your time.
2. If your pup should get up before you released him you can do one of a couple of things. We first suggest telling him something like "No, thats not it" or just a simple "Nope" as you remove your hands and any treats from his view and wait to see if he offers to fix it himself. My Mom even likes to cross her arms as she shakes her head no. If he fixes it himself verbally tell him "Yes! Good job!" and go back to the happy training looks as you try to get another stay out of him. Second you can try to quickly but gently tighten the leash up and back behind him as you give a light corrective sound (ie. "Ah-ah!") or a disapproving look. This should help maneuver him back into a sit which you should quickly verbally praise for. Make sure to release the leash pressure immediately after the dog's rear hits the floor again. You can try to ask him to stay once more but keep it very short and remember to praise with both treat and verbal reward when he succeeds.
3. For advancing the sit and or down stay for later movement, you can begin to add movement such as lifting one leg than another or even pretending to take a little half step away. Reward for all small successes and work on it. Just keep a close eye on the pup in case he isn't ready for your moving and tries to get up to follow you.
4. As you progress the stay with movement we do not reccomend calling the dog out of it. Unless it is an emergency my mom always encourages her students to return to the dog and then release when it is in a stay. This is so the dog does not anticapate being called out of it. Dogs that are always put in a stay and called out of it have a habit of making the decision on when to get up to come to you. Even if they don't get up they tend to be very fidgety and look almost on edge like they can't wait to hear the recall. I've seen dogs like this in the obedience competition ring that are so on edge the least little sound or movement from or near their handler will get them up and moving. Me? I just sit there and smile...or fall asleep! Stays can be much more relaxed and reliable when the dog expects nothing other than your return before a release.