Training The Release Command and Why You Must Use It For Perimeter Training

Dog owner Jenny P. wrote to me this week and asks: “A little background before the question. We live on one acre bordered by a field, woods and the street (a caul-de-sac) which has no sidewalks.

I purchased an electronic collar and intend to train my Lab mix to stay within a defined border, several feet from the natural border I have described. ( I plan to set up flags as if there was an invisible fence – only I will be the one administering the correction)

My question!!! How do I communicate to my dog that it is OK to cross the border when I want to take her into the street for the mail or a walk–or to cross the border to enter the adjoining field to romp? I planned to remove her with a leash to signal the permission–but is the OK command sufficient? How do I go about the entire training situation? Thank you, Jenny.”

Dear Jenny: Here are a few pointers you need to keep in mind:

1.) Make sure that whatever boundaries you teach are easily identifiable to the dog. Natural boundaries are best.

2.) Initially, when you stimulate the dog, be sure to have a long line on the dog, so that you can guide her back into the “safe” zone, if she misunderstands how to shut off the stimulation.

3.) When you take her off your property, always take her through the same exit way.

4.) Before you start with the e-collar stimulation, start just on one spot, with a manual leash correction. At the same time, teach her the release command, as outlined in my book.

Your release command, however, should not be the word, “Okay.” This is a common mistake, even by many ‘pseudo’ professional dog trainers. Why? Because using the word, ‘Okay,’ is SO common in are normal vernacular, that it’s too easy for the dog to cue off your voice when your husband says, “Oh, by the way Jenny… remember to pick up Adam’s dog training book on the way home,” and you reply, “OKAY!” … at which point your dog bolts into the street!!!

My advice is to choose a word or phrase that is not commonly used in everyday conversation. For dogs that are trained in English, I use the phrase, “Take a Break.” For dogs that are trained in German, we use the word, “Free!” But any word or phrase will do, as long as it’s not easily confused.

By the way… removing the leash is NOT a smart way to indicate to the dog that she can run through the boundary. The reasons for this should be obvious, when you think about it. Always use your release command (Take a Break) and be careful that you don’t unhook the leash and say the release command at the same time, otherwise the two actions (the word, and the action of unhooking the leash) will become synonymous. And there will be times in the future when simply removing the leash DOES NOT mean that the dog is free to go play.


How to Prevent a “Fly By” On The Dog Training Recall Exercise

Beth J. asks, “I am in the process of training my 13 month old Pit/Lab to “recall” and “random recall”.

My problem (or his problem, I should say) is that instead of running TO me – he runs right PAST me! Any suggestions? Thanks! ”

Dear Beth J.: It’s a very common behavior for dogs that are first learning the exercise.

What you need to do is: Leave the long line on the dog. As the dog shoots by you, call it’s name once more and immediately step forward on the line.

This will make the dog correct himself. Then turn to face the dog and take a few steps backwards, to stimulate the dog’s “chase” drive… to come into you. When he gets to you, praise him.

If the correction is motivational enough, the fly-bys should stop after two or three times. Your next step would be to use a ball or toy or food to get the dog to target into a correct position, right in front of you… if you want to get REAL precise.


How To Teach Your Dog Boundary Training In The House

NATALIE asks, “I have a silk rug from Turkey that I wish to train my dogs (black lab and welsh corgi) to not lay on. They are both smart dogs but I am not communicating what I want them to do effectively. I appreciate any guidance. Thank you, – Natalie”

Dear Natalie, It’s a good question. And the technique for training this behavior is really cool.

It’s the same approach we use to teach dogs to stay out of the street, or off the furniture. First, the dogs should be wearing pinch collars and tabs (1 foot leashes) any time you’re with them. And when you’re not with them, the dogs should be confined to an area where they cannot walk on the rug without getting corrected.

To start with, confine one dog, and with the other, put a 6′ leash on him. Now, throw something (like a toy) on the rug, that will tempt him to walk on it. As soon as he puts his first paw on the rug, say, “No!” and pop the leash (loose-tight-loose) in the direction that is away from the carpet.

Here’s the concept: You want the dog to think of the whole exercise as a safe zone/hot zone area. The safe zone is anywhere in the room EXCEPT the rug. The hot zone is the rug. The dog should come to understand that walking on the rug is similar to walking on a hot stove. It feels UNCOMFORTABLE, and he wants to get back into the safe zone as soon as possible.

Now, if the dog puts more than one foot on the rug, and actually walks to the center of the rug… it’s okay to drag (quickly) him back to the safe zone. This is one of the few instances where you’re actually pulling on the leash, instead of giving a quick “pop” on the leash.

What you’re doing is creating a constant negative motivation until the last of his four feet are off the hot zone. (When you rest your hand on a hot stove, it doesn’t just burn for a second… it keeps feeling uncomfortable until you take your hand off.)


Next, you can put the tab on him and start doing the exercise with a variety of different distractions. If you’re half way across the room and he walks on the rug, you should say, “No!” as soon as his foot touches the carpet, and then “NO, no, no!” as you walk to him and immediately correct him back into the safe zone.

Your success with this exercise will depend on how motivational your corrections are, how precise your timing is (never correct the dog if he’s now in the safe zone) and your attention to making sure that you’re consistent in your enforcement until the dogs drop the behavior. Once you’ve done the one dog, put him away and repeat the exercise with the other dog.


Doggie Escape Artists

No owner likes to get a call from the pound telling them that their dog has been picked up for roaming the streets, but even the best trained dog can escape and end up in places where it shouldn’t be.

In many towns you can find yourself in legal trouble if your dog is found to be wandering the streets. And quite rightly so as a dog on the loose can do quite a lot of damage to other people’s property, pets, children and elderly folk.

Dogs that generally try to escape from their property are usually those that have not been trained or are bored. Boredom is most often the case, and giving your dog suitable stimulation to ensure that he/she remains contented on the property can prevent this.

This can be as simple as leaving toys for your dog to play with, fresh water and a suitable place to sleep, shelter from the weather, and anything else that the dog might need while you aren’t in attendance. Obviously a big fence and a locked gate will go a long way to deter your dog from escaping.

Consider the alternative of trying to catch your dog once it has escaped, and the damage that can be done, should it run out in front of a cyclist or a car. Prevention is always best. Giving your dog regular exercise will also reduce the likelihood of it wanting to escape.

Even the fact that the dog knows it will be getting exercise when you arrive home will eliminate much of the possibility of having it escape during the time when you’re away. If your dog gets this exercise before you go out you are less likely to have problems because it is more likely to sleep after having exercised.   

Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training book.  This article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.

For The Golden Retriever Who Runs Through Doors and Gates


Although frustrating, this is actually one of the easiest problems to correct.

Teach your dog to sit and stay at all doors and gates and to hold that stay until you either give him permission to go through or release him after you have closed the door. By teaching him that doors and gates are boundaries that require permission, you will eliminate the problem.

Start with your dog on a leash, and walk him up to the door. Have him sit, tell him to stay, and then with the leash firmly grasped in your hand, open the door wide and stand aside. If he dashes forward, correct him for breaking his stay by saying, “No, stay!” Take him back to where he started and do it again. If he continues to do it, give him a snap and release of the leash and collar as you correct him verbally. When he will hold the stay at this door, go to the other doors and gates and teach the same lesson, the same way.

If your Golden tries to sneak past you when he is not on the leash, block him with your leg or slam the door in his face as you give him a verbal correction.

If your dog does make it outside, don’t chase him. If you chase him, it becomes a game. Use your snack shaker to call him to you and say nicely “Spot, do you want a cookie? Come! Good boy!” When you do catch him or he comes back to you, don’t correct him. If you do, he learns that coming back results in a correction. Instead praise him for coming to you. 

Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training book.  This article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.

House Training Boundaries With A Belgian Malinois

[] “House Training Boundaries With A Belgian Malinois” … Dog Training Tips Newsletter IN THIS ISSUE: New Video From Adam– “House Training Boundaries With A Belgian Malinois” … “They Need Help With Boundary And Perimeter Training” … (A Free Tip From Our Dog Training Discussion Forum) ————————————————- Copyright 2009 by Browning Direct, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ————————————————- New…