A stay can be useful in so many situations, I would even say it is a necessity for pet owners to have. But here is the news flash... you don't have to dominate your dog into a stay, you will get a better result if you praise him while he's staying!
First read up on our Dog Training Basics to understand the frame of mind you should be in when training a stay. Then read our article on how to praise your dog, to understand the correct way to reward your dog. Now you are ready to learn how to teach your dog a reliable stay.
Use your voice to reward your dog when he is doing what you have asked him to do. If you've asked your dog to 'stay', then start praising him as soon as he sits down and keep praising him as long as his bum remains on the ground. As you move away from him, guide him with your voice to which behaviour you like (bum remaining on the ground), by continuously praising him.
If his bum comes off the floor then simply give him a little warning noise, such as 'ap ap ap' or 'aj aj aj' and move towards him again. If his bum then hits the floor again (by his own accord, not by anyone pressing it down), after your warning noise - PRAISE HIM INSTANTLY! He stopped the unwanted behaviour (lifting his bum of the floor) and started a wanted behavior again (staying with his bum to the floor).
Too often I hear people demanding their dog to STAY! with a dark, demanding voice, although the dog is already sitting there in a perfect stay. This is the moment to praise them, not threaten them!
The argument that your dog will get up if you praise him, doesn't work. That only happens because you've taught your dog that you only praise him when his work task is finished, not when he is doing something right. This is easy to re-train, but you'll have to start at scratch.
I would also suggest you not recall your dog from a stay until your dog is so secure in his stay that you can walk a couple of dogs right in front of him without him getting up. Make it a routine to ALWAYS go back and reward your dog where he is. This will help him remain in place. If you mainly call your dog from a stay, he's be sitting there just waiting for that release when he can shoot off after you (and your treat). If he knows that he won't get his reward until you return to him, he can sit down and relax in the stay.
You should also have a little think of what it is you are rewarding if you recall your dog from the stay... You are not rewarding a stay, are you? You are in fact rewarding a recall!
Ask your dog to sit, praise him (nice and calm praise, don't go too wild...) when he does and give him a small treat. Have the next treat ready when you give him the first treat and feed him the second treat as you take a step to your left or right, still praising him.
Make sure the treat is given to your dog where he is sitting, be careful not to hold it in front of him in such a way that he has to stretch himself to reach it - his bum might leave the floor to reach the treat and that defeats the object of this exercise. Keep treating and moving around to the sides and backwards from your dog.
You are teaching him to sit stay, to him that should mean: 'leave your bum on the floor no matter what is going on around you and you'll get paid for it'.
Now try these basics again, but hold back on the treat for a while, but praise him lots for staying, even if you are only moving half a step away from him (doesn't matter which direction). Reward when you are back by his side.
Continue doing this, praising with your voice when he stays and move yourself in every possible direction. When your dog is quite happy sitting there, waiting for you to come back to him with a reward, start moving an extra step further away. Don't push it too much, one extra step at a time is quite sufficient, until you feel he can cope with that.
Now you have to teach your dog to stay despite distractions. It is fairly simple, if you just keep the exercises simple. Go back to the beginning again, ask your dog to stay and only take half a step or a step away. Drop a treat or a toy on the ground in front of your dog and praise him loads if he stays sitting. If he is eager to get to the toy/treat, hold him back as gently as you can, with a hand on his chest. As soon as he relaxes, praise him and give him the release command. This is a great way to teach your dog a bit of self control and it helps make them steady in their stay.
Repeat this exercise over and over again and gradually leave the toy/treat further and further away. When you are feeling pretty confident about his ability, try throwing the toy out. This is usually very hard for dogs to resist and you should be prepared for a lunge. Teach him to sit still even with such a temptation by making small fake throwing movements with your arm and praising him if he sits still.
After a pretend throw, just drop the toy down on the floor. If he's managed to sit still, give him the release cue and have a good tug or chase with him over the toy.