Permission - the key to self control

When you give a cue you are telling the dog when to start behavior "x".

The dog should continue doing "x" until released or given a different cue.


The release tells the dog when the training moment is concluded.



  • The cue turns the behavior ON, the release turns the behavior OFF.

  • Duration is the time between the cue and the release. (In essence, the dog should stay or remain in that position until told to do otherwise. You may or may not name the duration "stay".)


One of the biggest mistakes new trainers make is to give a cue and then make the food delivery the release. Worse, some handlers give a cue and then get distracted themselves and ignore the dog who then gives up waiting and does its own thing. The handler's lack of attention becomes the release cue.)



What is a release cue?

It should be a consistent word or phrase: "ok", "all done", "free dog", "that's all!" which tells the dog that the training moment has concluded. In other contexts it might tell the dog that he is free collect his reward or do what he was waiting for permission to do - like eat.


THE RELEASE IS LIKE A "CLICK" - whatever he was doing or feeling at the moment you give the release to eat or go through a doorway, or go meet a person or another animal was reinforced.


"Fido, sit - wait"- (set food bowl on floor) - "ok!" (Dog eats.)


It's not only essential for training, it's essential for teaching self control.  A dog who sees the handler as the conduit to everything it wants and needs, sees the handler as a very valuable person in its life - someone he or she can't live without. When the dog is trained to wait for permission to engage in an activity, the handler has control.


Dogs are very ego-centric by nature. Untrained dogs believe that if they can reach it, it's theirs. If they want it, it should be theirs. If they can get it before you can, it should be theirs. Do not have a race with your dog. Never compete. Teach.


Dogs who have no impulse control are frustrated and frustrating for their owners. They throw temper tantrums when they have to wait or are told they can't have what they want. They have no patience. They have little or no respect for their handler.


Say "When"!


A release word is like saying "NOW you may go there, do that, have that thing that you want."


The dog's job is to look to you and wait for the go ahead: to go through a door, a gate, in or out of a car. To go greet a visitor or meet another dog. To eat, fetch a ball, or run free in the woods.


Whatever behavior the dog is exhibiting at the time it hears the release word,
was reinforced and more likely to occur or escalate in the future - desired or undesired behavior.


If the dog was sitting politely, giving you its full attention, then that behavior will become habit.

If the dog was barking, whining, straining at the leash and feeling frustrated, then THAT behavior will become habit.

Which would you prefer?




This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -ditr_training @ -