When you are communicating with your dog, the release word is the ever-important cue allowing your dog to know when something may start or when it’s finished. If you skip using a release word in dog training, it’s like telling someone you’ve got a great story to tell and then walking away, leaving the person hanging. It’s like saying you’ll be right back, but not coming back. When you don’t use this cue, it leaves your dog confused and wondering what’s next. Or, even worse, the dog just makes his own choice since you didn’t decide what was best or safest at that moment.

As humans, we have all kinds of tools at our disposal to know when something starts or ends. We use our phones, clocks, or stopwatches. Children have the sound of the bell ringing at the end of the school day. With young children, we teach, “Ready? Set! Go!” The choice is yours as to what word you choose to use as your release cue (or tool) to offer your dog the same. Some people say the word “release!” or “free!”,  I use “okay!” for my dogs. It really doesn’t matter what word you use, just be sure to use it.

Here are a few examples of times you can use your release word:

Potty time, not party time

When you use the release word at any door before the exit or entry, this will spike your dogs’ interest, which is necessary for keeping their attention. For example, when your dog is going outside for a bathroom break, ask for a sit, open the door, and use the release word. Unless he’s realllllly gotta go, then that’s just plain mean.

Buh-bye in the car

Next time you unbuckle the seat belt or open the door for your dog to exit your vehicle, require that your dog waits for a hot second, maybe using a “wait” cue. Say your release word and open the door. Safety first. You really should make sure the coast is clear and the situation is safe before your dog goes high tailing it outta there, so excited to see where you’ve taken him.

Chow time

Eating a meal is so much more fun when the food is earned and given with a release. Handing over a meal to a dog without a simple sit and release word, is like the difference between a microwaved pot pie and someone making you a gourmet meal. If you just plop down the bowl, it just takes the pizazz away. Borrrring. Using the release word just makes the meal more thrilling!

Wanna go for a walk?

We’ve all seen that inevitable excitement, the “ants in the pants” run around in circles like a “coo-coo” run-to-the-door madness. We just can’t get enough of a dog’s intense excitement to get around that block, seriously, it’s the best! Next time? Use a simple “watch me” cue or the sit command if you think your dog is feelin’ it, THEN open the door, pause, shoot for some eye contact again, then go for the release word. This is a much better way to gain control before that walk even starts.

Chilling Out on the Furniture

Have you ever finished making a yummy looking sandwich, sat down in your spot in front of the TV, just got comfy and then wham! Therrrrre’s your dog, up on the couch, in your face, and in your sandwich. Simply using the release word for jumping up on the furniture will not only teach manners but it could save your lunch.

Using the release word encourages your dog to basically “ask first.” Using this cue not only teaches your dog basic manners and improves communication skills, but it makes your dog’s life with you more fun and interesting. At the same time, you are ensuring their safety. What could be better than that? This is just one way to make learning fun and teach manners too. Your dog will love you for it!

About the Author Christine Fox, APDT, CTDI and a Pet Sitters International member, is the founder of Wag ‘N’ Tails Dog Activity Center with two locations in Michigan. She has been involved with many pet dog trainer certification initiatives, all based on learning techniques that involve humane practices and the latest in scientific research. Christine also raised a service dog for Paws With a Cause and plans to train her newest pup in therapy work. Through her work with dogs and their parents, Christine has developed many happy and healthy relationships with both humans and dogs in the community.

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