November 19th, 2018
The invisible barrier of dog training: understanding and utilizing the release cue – Part 1
Have you ever wondered how your dog will know when to stop a command? For example, you teach your dog to sit, but how does she know that it is time to stand up again? Mara is an almost 2 year old beagle who is good about knowing how to follow a food lure into a command but is not independent about breaking out of it. Her owner must tell her when to do the next thing. She could spend the better part of her day waiting to be told what to do next, when to go outside or even when to eat. One of the most important cues that all dogs should master after learning the food lure cue is a cue called “release”. The release cue will tell your dog when she can stop (or release) from the instruction she was given.
This cue is broken up into two parts:
Part 1: Definition and importance of the cue in tandem with the food lure cue
Part 2: Implementation of the release cue in tandem with sit and sit stay
For the sake of part 1, let’s look at why the release cue is important.
If your dog is following your instruction, why would you want her to stop (or release) what she was asked to do? That is a great question! The release cue is important because it tells your dog when she is ready to go on to do something else. It provides an invisible barrier for your dog that you can control and alter. It is especially important because if you are teaching your dog to wait for something, this is the command that will tell her that it is safe to proceed. Here are some examples when a release cue is very useful:
- Teaching your dog to wait to eat
- having your dog wait to greet people/dogs upon arrival in the house or in an alternative location;
- informing your dog when it is safe to cross the street, especially if you live in an urban area or area with a lot of traffic;
- many other situations.
Understanding the release cue in tandem with the food lure cue will give your dog an edge in not only learning, but also mastering any other basic or advanced command.
Before beginning to introduce the release cue with your dog, she should be actively working on socialization skills (remember Hank the 5 month old husky mix?) and should feel as though she is part of the family. Throughout socialization, she will be less distracted by other dogs, other animals, noises, etc. allowing her to keep her attention on you. Additionally, if she feels a strong connection with you and you have built trust with her, she will be more apt to wait to be released from a cue and listen to you.
Let’s stop here for now. We will be back to talk more about the step-by-step details about teaching your dog the release cue once she has learned some practical commands such as sit, sit stay, down, down stay and/or recall (come when called). That way we can use those commands in tandem with the release cue for you (and your dog) to better understand how the release cue is used. Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon.