The Difference Between “Stay” and “Wait”

Written by Sue Lawlor, Our Companions Training Class Instructor

Golden Retriever waiting at the front door. Adobe Stock Photo

Many people mistakenly use “Wait” and “Stay” interchangeably. Both are important skills for your dog, but each should be used in completely different circumstances. Let’s talk about how you would use “Wait” and “Stay”.

WAIT is more commonly used for everyday interactions. The cue “Wait” means just that. A momentary pause. Wait before you go through a door to outside. Wait at the top of the stairs until I get down so that you don’t trip me. Wait until grandma gets into the chair before you come to greet her. You can release a wait from anywhere. From the backyard, from the bottom of the stairs and from next to grandma’s chair across the room.

STAY means that the dog should remain in position (standing, sitting, or in a down) until you come back to your dog and release them. Stay could last for many minutes. Stay could be a life and death skill if your dog were to get to the other side of a road. You would want your dog to understand “stay” so that you could cross the road and retrieve your dog safely.

Additional Resources

The Three Dogs Training: WAIT vs. STAY

Our Companions Training Guide: Teaching Stay

Our Companions Training Guide: Wait at the Door