Make the Release Cue its Own Behavior2 minute read
Release cues are always second best
Ah the release cue! Always the runner up in training games. Release cues rarely get the spotlight let alone their own game. (If you know anyone who designs training games for dogs you should ask them to make a course for release cues...) Instead, they're just the one step you do to tell your pup she can stop doing the thing you're really trying to teach her.
Let's change that.
Let's make the release cue it's own behavior that's fun, easy and worthy of positive reinforcement. Why?
Because just as you can't have have lightness without darkness or up without down, you can't have a stay without a release.
Why is teaching stay hard?
Stay is a vague concept to teach since it's the absence of something rather than the presence of something. It's a behavior defined as NOT doing, as in not moving, which as we know, is tricky for dogs (see: it's easier to learn to do something than to not do something)
This means, in order to make the release cue "it's own behavior" we need to have our pups do something after we release them. In many of the Harper training games for stay, we throw a treat and tell our pups to get it, but you could also call them to you when you release them, ask for a hand target, or play a game of tug. All of these are firmly in the "doing something" category, and even better, they are things to do while moving, which is the opposite of staying.
Stay is what you do before you move
And that's the idea. Staying and moving are opposites which makes the idea crystal clear to your dog. Staying is everything your dog is doing (look, we just changed "staying" into "doing"!) up until the point you release them which is when they're moving. Got it? Great.
Break! (extends hand for elevated hand target)