The commands “Stay” and “Wait” are not used interchangeably but have separate connotations. Why do we differentiate these commands?

Based upon how they are used, it makes perfectly logical sense.


This command has a sense of time or even distance. The Stay command is taught in three positions: Stand, Sit and Down.

The “good manners” Sit or Down Stay is outside by your side, and the dog should remain there while you are talking with someone or the dog is being petted. The dog should not get up until you are ready to continue walking.

The command is also used to let traffic pass you by when it might take a while.

The Sit or Down Stay is used indoors for controlled greetings when people arrive at the house and is therefore a form of good manners.

A place Stay keeps a dog on a bed or mat chewing on a bone or chewy when you are entertaining. This can have a long time component of as much as two hours.

When you need your dog to be occupied for a long time, then it is a Down Stay. It could also be used when you don’t want the dog to follow you from room to room but just stay still and not move.

The distance or time Stay requires self-control and maturity.

The Stand Stay is used primarily for visits to the vet, groomer or when you are bathing and examining your dog.

The most important component, whether the dog is by your side or at a distance, is that you release the dog from the position by being next to or returning to the dog, never with a Come command.


This command is used commonly in everyday situations. It is a brief “Wait a moment,” and is often referred to as a “patience and permission” command.

It is behavior-based rather than time-based in relation to when you release the dog from the position. It can be in a Sit or a Stand but not a Down.

Use it when crossing the street while waiting for cars to pass, walking through the door so the dog doesn’t pull you and you can go in first, waiting for the food bowl to be put down without jumping, picking up something on the ground, not pulling down stairs, waiting a moment and then retrieving something, getting in and out of the car and more.

With this command, you are conveying the message “Stop moving, behave, and then I will give you permission to do something. If not, we are not proceeding.”

The release from the Wait position can be another command such as “Let’s Walk” or a word such as “okay.” You can release from a distance or when the dog is next to you, but you do not return to the dog.

Both commands are essential to having a safe, well-trained and well-mannered dog. Practice both appropriately and you will be proud of your dog’s behavior.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training.