In my article on how to train your dog to stay, I have mentioned the release command a few times and its importance for dog obedience training. Before we talk about training the release command for dogs, what even is the release command and what does it mean?
The release command is used in basic dog obedience training and consists of a verbal cue that is given the dog to release him from the current command. This command is often being used in combination with the command “stay” or “heel” or any other type of training command.
Why Should I Teach the Release Command?
The release command is extremely useful for every day dog obedience training. It helps your dog to differentiate when he is in command and when he is free to roam around.
This will help him to get clarity into the training and will result in more focused training when in command. Dogs love to have the feeling that they are knowing what they are doing. Uncertainty leads to bad training results and even anxiety and fear in your dog especially if he is being corrected inappropriately.
Your dog won’t just randomly get out of his sit to walk around again which gives you much more reliable control over your dog and makes training much easier. I tried to implement the release command from day one and I will show you in a second how I did it.
The Importance of the Release Command
Every command has a built-in stay which means that you expect from your dog that he will be holding the sit or down command for a specific period of time. If you do not train with a release command, your reward cue will always be the release command for your dog.
The command stay for example needs to have a beginning and an end. Your verbal cue “stay” will get your dog into this waiting position but what will release him? Many dog trainer never teach the command stay because every command has a built-in stay which is only released by the release command.
I still train stay although I have always trainer with a release command. Stay will work as an amplifier for the current command that you are giving your dog. I use the release cue for every occasion: Before she is able to greet people or dogs, she will have to get into a sit and look at me before she is released. When we reach the field, I will take the leash off and she is not allowed to go anywhere before I release her. She also won’t jump out of the car or go outside without me giving her permission.
This will give you much more control as your dog doesn’t randomly stand up and you will get a predictable aspect into training. You can use the command in situations like I do or you can think about any other situations where the release command would have some practical use. For example, if your dog always runs up to the guest as soon as they step into the door, let him sit until the guests have arrived and settled and then you can give him the release cue.
Choosing the Right Release Cue
The training starts with choosing the best cue for your release command. Use something that you will only use for this command and it shouldn’t sound like any other one.
Many dog owners use the command “OK” which is hard for your dog to differentiate because this is a word we use so often in our daily lives. Instead, use something like “free” or “done” which you don’t use that often to avoid confusion.
Stay with the same cue once you have chosen it. Everyone in your family has to use the same cue for the release command or any other command for that matter. If you want to, you can also choose a command for “you are free but keep paying attention to me” and another for “you are free to go wherever you want, training is done”.
You can then use “free” and continue on training and to end the session, you could use “all done” which will give your dog even more clarity about the whole process.
Teaching the Release Command
The only thing you will need to start training the release command is some yummy treats and your dog will have to know the basic command
- Start with your dog in a sit position. Wait a few seconds and then give your dog your chosen release cue and make a backward motion with the treat and your whole body to get your dog to break out of the sit command. Be very enthusiastically and engaging so your dog will want to follow you. Treat him as a reward and repeat this step a few times.
- After your dog has successfully been released out of the command you will want to slowly decrease your motion. Make less and less effort to get your dog out of command until you only have to stand there and reward him.
- Gradually extend the waiting time until you give your dog the release command which will also strengthen the built-in stay. You can then start to use the release cue with other commands like lay down, stand or heel.
Problems that May Occur
The most common problem when teaching the stay command is that your dog breaks out of the command too early. This happens because he has already learned the specific time that he had to stay in command before. Try and continuously switch up the waiting times. Start with just 2 seconds as you want to catch your dog before he makes this mistake. Then you can randomly wait for 5 seconds and then for 2 seconds again and then for 10 seconds.
If your dog fails too often, give him a break and take a step back. You will want your dog to have as much fun as possible in every training session. Pay attention to his body language, if he seems bored or tired this means that the training session is either too boring or too long. Try to make it more fun next time.
Let me know your training results with the release command in the comments down below.