The ‘release’ command
This simple training exercise will make a huge difference on how much control you have over your dog and is used to teach your dog to remain in position when asked (Wait, Stay, Sit, Down, Stand) and also useful when asked to ‘Leave’.
Having control over a dog contrarily gives your dog more freedom as you will be able to take her to more places in the knowledge that you can control her better both on and off lead, in the home or out in public.
What is the ‘little word’?
I use ‘OK’ but you can use any word or phrase you wish.
As mentioned above, it is referred to in training terms as the ‘release’ command.
Why use it?
The main reason I see regularly as to why a dog won’t remain in position is that she has never been taught to do so until ‘released’. Lots of dogs incorrectly learn that they may move out of position as soon as they have received a treat.
This means a dog will sit (or other command given) for only a few seconds (usually, as above, until given a treat) and then move out of position.
The above scenario is obviously not much use in practical terms as we want our dogs to remain in position until we decide it is time for them to move. For example:
- Sitting to greet people (instead of jumping up).
- Waiting at the kerb before crossing the road.
- Settling in a down while we enjoy lunch at the pub.
- Settling in the evening (Go-to-Bed and Down) instead of running around grabbing your ankles!
- As in the above photo, two of my ‘students’ trained not to move until asked means taking photos of your dogs is much easier – set them up where you want them and they won’t move until you tell them it’s ‘OK’ to do so. (See also actiondogphotography.co.uk for professional images of your friends and pet photography training.
How to teach the release command
Introduce this with the first control exercise you ever use. I use Wait as it is so easy to do, even with very young puppies) and you can use it in several ways. It doesn’t matter if your dog stands, sits or lies down – that is the advantage of teaching the Wait; it is so easy.
How to teach the Wait & OK when letting puppies out of a crate or pen
- Open the crate door slowly with one hand and have the other hand ready to stop your puppy coming out.
- As you restrain your puppy, tell her Wait.
- When she stops wriggling and trying to get out then praise her very quietly.
- Then tell her OK and allow her out of the crate.
NOW GET HER OUTSIDE QUICKLY TO THE TOILET! IF YOU KNOW THAT YOUR PUPPY IS DESPERATE TO GO THE TOILET AT ANY TIME, EG FIRST THING IN THE MORNING THEN THAT IS NOT THE TIME TO START TEACHING THE WAIT!
How to teach the Wait & OK at the door or kerb
- Have your dog on lead.
- With your dog at your side and on a short-ish lead ask your dog to Wait.
- If she fidgets just correct her back to your side until she stops. It doesn’t matter if she stands, sits or lies down, that is the advantage of using the Wait command. You just want her to remain still without pulling on lead or fidgeting.
- Once she is still for a few seconds then very quietly and calmly praise her, wait another few seconds and then tell her OK and then you move forward encouraging your dog to go with you because at first your dog won’t know what the OK means (but see below for tone of voice use).
How to teach your dog not to snatch toys
As mentioned above, you can teach your dog to ‘leave’ an item until you give the OK to take it; that may be meals, toys, treats, etc.
- Pick up a dog toy and tell your dog to Leave (assuming it has been taught this command).
- Wait until your dog is calmly standing and leaving the item and then praise quietly, as above.
- Just before you give the toy to your dog give the OK (some people do a similar thing but use a more specific command such as ‘Take-it’ – it doesn’t matter what you use so long as your dog understands what she is meant to do and learns good manners).
Using your tone of voice to communicate
To help your dog understand what is required you will need to make use of difference tones of voice:
- The command to Wait should be clear and confident.
- The praise should be v-e-r-y q-u-i-e-t a-n-d s-l-o-w (if you sound jolly and excited she will leap out of position and want to play with you!)
- The release command OK should be in a jolly higher pitched voice which will naturally encourage her to move. However if this makes your dog leap ahead or bound around then make it less jolly and excited – you just have to get the balance right for each dog.
Once your dog has learned they should not move from the Wait, then it is much easier to teach them to remain in position for Sit and Down, and much quicker for them to learn not to snatch toys, so all your early efforts teaching the Wait and release will also pay off later.
When you don’t need to use the release command
If you are giving another command, such as Heel, Come Here, or any other command then you don’t need to say the ‘OK’.
Problems with your dog learning to remain in position
The most common problems are a lack of consistency, either because:
- You forget to give the OK command every time.
- Other members of your family or a dog-walker do not know or do not remember. Be sure to tell everyone involved in training your dog what all of the commands are. Write them up and put them in a place where everyone will see them, eg on the fridge for your family. If you have a dog walker then that is more difficult for them but the good ones will be teaching some basic obedience on walks and should be doing this before they let dogs off.
Enjoy your dog’s company and have fun but do please practise a little training each day and you will see results.
As always, if things are not going as well as you would like then please get in touch.
© Sally Bartlett