Release commands used in dog training are cues like “OKAY” or “FREE”. This tells the dog that they are done working or performing the command. Using a release command is a key element of achieving reliability in training.
Almost any dog can SIT on command, but how many pop up and run seconds after following the command? Most. SIT until the handler says otherwise is essentially a STAY. If we do not utilize a release command we are unable to communicate when the dog can get up from a SIT or when he can move again from a STAY.
The release must be built into our training to provide a clear and precise communication system with our dog. We often get focused on obedience and getting the dog to SIT or DOWN, that we forget about the other half; telling them when they are done working. You have a clock, calendar, or supervisor to tell you when you are done working. Life would be stressful and confusing if you never knew when the job was done. It would also not be very rewarding.
Simply finishing a job, or obedience task, is rewarding in itself. You do not get a paycheck for doing your laundry but you feel satisfied when it is done and hanging clean in the closet. Dogs get the same self-satisfaction when they complete an obedience task. Therefore, it is critical that they know when the task is done.
A release command is taught by using a single word every time you use an obedience command. This may seem cumbersome in the beginning, but the adjustment results in a huge shift towards reliability and consistency in your dog’s obedience. Dog logic is all or none, black and white, and always or never. Sometimes or maybe is unclear, causing confusion and stress. Using a release command sometimes is unclear.
If you request a SIT, you must follow through with a release such as OKAY. When beginning training and introducing the release command, it must come before the dog breaks the sit or down command. To be effective you must be quick. If the dog gets up before you can release them, repeat the obedience SIT or DOWN command and try again. Over time with repetition and reinforcement, you will extend the amount of time between SIT and OKAY. This is where your release magically becomes a STAY!
When your dog is grasping the SIT and OKAY and DOWN and OKAY you can expand his training by generalizing the command. For dogs who love car rides, have them SIT and release OKAY when you are ready for them to jump into the car. Same thing when getting out; they can SIT on the seat waiting until you tell them OKAY to jump out.
Get the safety and control the release command provides. Enjoy the clear communication with your dog and feel great about providing the direction your canine companion is looking for.
We hope you enjoyed, now GO TRAIN!
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.