Off or Leave - Training a Release Cue

It is very useful to teach your dog a cue which he/she clearly understands to mean that teeth and/or paws should be taken 'off' anything that you require him/her to release from his mouth or remove paws from.

  • Hold a piece of food between your finger and thumb. Offer it to the dog with the palm of your hand facing upwards and allow the dog to take it gently. Repeat this a few times. Say nothing at all.
  • Offer a piece of food and as the dog moves forward to take it, turn your hand over and close your fist. Do not stare at or speak to him/her. The dog will probably push at your hand, may paw it but continue to ignore this behaviour. When the dog gives up, turn your hand over and give the food. Repeat this process a number of times, giving more than you withhold. Still say nothing at all.
  • The dog will soon understand that as soon as you turn your hand over, he has no access to the food and will stop pushing and pawing at the hand.
  • When he is consistent with this, put in a quiet verbal cue as you turn your hand over to withhold the food. Make sure it is a word you feel comfortable with but not a word you have used previously with an inconsistent response.  I use ‘OFF’ as it is descriptive and it is less likely to have been used before. Many  people use ‘leave' or 'give' - your choice. Be patient, avoid the tempation to add the verbal cue before the dog fully understands the behaviour required.
  • When the dog thoroughly understands the meaning of the cue using food, move on to practising with toys. I prefer to use toys that give me room to turn my hand over and still give the visual closed fist signal.

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