I recently saw a guardian working on obedience with her puppy. The puppy seemed to be doing wonderful at everything she was asked to do. Then they came to the STAY, she did pretty good for a puppy of her age and then we got to the confusing part. The owner made the most common training mistake with regards to teaching a solid STAY, she called her puppy out of the STAY. The puppy is told to sit and stay, the owner walks away and then calls the puppy. Hmmmmmm. Common practice even with many trainers, so where lies the mistake?
To teach a solid stay, you want to give the idea that your dog is not to move. By adding the COME verbal cue or even simply coaxing a puppy out of a stay because you are done puts more emphasis on the process of COMING, not staying. Often the COME is followed by praise and a treat. So what is a puppy learning? They are learning that COMING is great. Therefore they are not learning a solid STAY.
When I teach a STAY, it means STAY until you are told that you can move. In the beginning I always return to the dog, reward, pause and then calmly and boringly release them. STAY like any other behavior must be taught small, both in time and distance and then grow in both categories as you and your pup achieve success. There should be a release word to get out of a STAY and it should not be COME. One word and one word only releases the pup from a STAY. This needs to be taught, trained, practiced, proofed and practiced some more.
Praise and treat rewards should be given while the dog is in a STAY position. This makes the STAY a great thing. If you reward for coming out of a STAY or after the release, the STAY becomes irrelevant and the after behavior of coming or getting out of the STAY much more important. This causes an anxiety effect "oh I can't wait to get my release word," wiggle, wiggle and the moving begins.
Along with the mistake of calling a puppy out of a STAY, is the ever present STOP sign hand in the air. Give the signal and put it away. You don't want to have to hold your hand up the entire stay for the rest of your pups life right? Don't start something that you will have to undo later.
Also; never, ever use the word STAY if you do not intend to enforce it.