Why is a Release Word Important?
It is important that your dog understands a specific cue that releases him to action, usually from a control
position such as sit, down and stand. (These commands should be taught so that your dog understands
that he does not leave that position until he is released. An additional stay command should not be
necessary). This release word should be used consistently and needs to be independent of body position
and movement. What that means is, your dog should stay whether or not you start running, or moving,
and the release cue should indicate it is all right to move whether or not you move. You should be able to
stay perfectly still and calm, and when you use your release word, your dog moves from position.
Quiz the Release
If you think your dog already know his release word, test it now. Sit your dog next to you and move away
about six feet. Return to your dog's side. If he hasn't budged, that's great! He knows his stay. Now give
your release word with no physical prompts or lures. Be certain you are not leaning or twitching any part
of your body before, during, or after uttering your cue word. If your dog moves from position with this
totally neutral release, congratulations! Only about 17% of dogs are trained correctly to do this. If you
have been pairing the release with movement, it is likely that your dog has no understanding of his verbal
cue alone without your movement.
What Cue to Use?
Most of us like and use the traditional "Okay" as a cue that allows the dog to break his position. Sometimes
a common word like this can cause problems when someone else nearby uses it. Some people prefer to
use less common words, such as break, release, free or anything else.
The Importance of Understanding
Train your dog not to move until you give him permission, and maintain your dog understands once you
have trained it.
1. Give a verbal cue such as Break or OK and wait to see what your dog does.
2. This step is your dog's responsibility. He must move once you have given him a release cue.
Your dog's movement after his release cue is what gives you permission to move. Do not move
until he does. If he does not move he is demonstrating his lack of understanding.
Multiple Release Words
You may have more than one release cue. On a recall exercise you do not have to say, OK, Front. Simply
say Front. Here the word Front is a release. Likewise the word Heel is also a release during obedience.
Once you throw a toy for your dog, Get It is the release. You must be consistent with each cue and not
allow the dog to release without your giving permission. A conditioned reinforcer such as a click or the
words, "yes" or "good dog" should never be a release. Teach each and every release word you plan to use
in training as a separate skill. Initially you can use both words together, the release word the dog knows,
paired with the new one. With your dog in a sit, you drop a toy. Get It at this point is meaningless. So
give the combined cue, Get It, OK. Quickly your dog will learn that the cue Get It always precedes OK,
and at this point you can drop the OK.
Training the Release
Teach the release in the context of a game.
Article ideas thanks to Susan Garrett