What is a Release Word? An Important Component of Teaching “Stay”

Does your dog know how to stay? Does he have a release word? If not, he should! A release word is a word that tells your dog he is allowed to move, following the "stay" command. "Stay" needs to have a defined beginning and end, otherwise your dog will learn he can move anytime he feels like it. Commonly used release words are "okay," "break," and "free." Often a release word is followed by another command such as "come."

When teaching stay, you should have already chosen a release word.  Reward your dog in place for staying (i.e. return to your dog to deliver the treat rather than telling your dog to "come" every time you practice stay). After rewarding your dog in place, say your release word, and encourage him to move. Reward him for moving when you use the release word so he starts to understand the word’s meaning. 

If your dog already knows "stay," but doesn't have a release word, simply follow the steps above but keep in mind you may need to move away and entice your dog to move with you after you say the release word.

Some dogs may think you're tricking them by trying to test their stay command. But once they understand the release word, they actually will have a better understanding of stay. 

Want more helpful advice for training your dog? Turn to the trainers at the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week telephone support service: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.

- AKC GoodDog! Helpline trainer Breanne Long.