Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Such a simple little word is often times a pup's favorite command. Why? Because it means "you're free", "go eat", "have a good time", "go play", "relax", "yes, you may", etc. (Of course there are pups that more prefer a "let's go", "get it" or a "lap" command but we won't go there for now /wink/)

Being many pups' favorite command, it seems there would be No issues with it. Right?


In all our research on different schools we realized there's a Vast majority of "release" commands. The standard on is "OK", however Guide Dogs of the Desert uses "alright" (which I used with the elephants and greatly enjoy the inflection you can put on it.), Canine Companions for Independence uses "release" for at least a couple things, Southeastern Guide Dogs has recently switched from "OK" to "Take a Break". (Kind of a mouthful in my opinion but I'm not judging!)

I do understand that some schools use a less commonly used term for a release command, simply to help new raisers to Not accidentally release their dog in a dangerous/inconvenient situation.

In my humble opinion, this logic is slightly misplaced and is covering an issue rather than addressing it. In an ideal situation, the pup would always be securely on leash and out of harm's way, even if "accidentally" released.

Another thing comes into play, however. I don't care who says otherwise, dogs Know when you're talking to them and should be trained as such. If you're talking on the phone and the back door is opened (and the dog is threshold trained) and you say "OK" that dog should be trained to know the difference between that and when you give the command "OK". Despite being a release, "OK" is still certainly a command and should be treated as such.

When you have a pup out in public and you ask your companion (whoever that may be) if they want to sit down, do you expect your dog to sit and then down because you said two words that are commands? Certainly not.

If a pup is trained to "get it" and you're out shopping with a friend and talking and you ask your friend if they want to "get it" does your pup try and "get" something in response to those words? I would hope not.

Dogs when taught a command are taught to respond to that command under certain circumstances. For a "get it" you're directing the dog, which is different than simply saying "get it". When releasing a dog you're releasing them from a certain thing. In a pet store, if you place a pup in a down-stay and then release them with an "OK" you don't mean they may go grab a rawhide off the bottom shelf. Why? Because they have been trained to respect that and "OK" in that situation means "you may get out of the last position I requested of you" not "OK, BE CRAZY!".

There's certainly a big difference.

When I worked with the elephants we used "alright" like GDD does. We used inflection to an amazing extent with this command, much more so than any other. It was multi-faceted in it's use. We would give the elephants a "trunk" command (rest the tip of their trunk on their forehead to keep their attention. An elephant's trunk shows where their mind is, much like a dog's nose, just more obvious). We would then tell them "alright, move up" meaning they could drop their trunk, the lead elephant would turn to the right or left (whichever way indicated by the handler) and start walking, the second elephant would drop her (in this case) trunk and grab the lead elephants tail, thus following in practically the first elephant's footsteps, same with the third elephant. However, each elephant was given the "alright" at a different time. The second and third elephants weren't give a "move up" command but rather a "tail up" command (thus wrapping their trunk around the elephant in front of them's tail). However, "alright" was also used after asking them to "get in line" (all three elephants would turn toward the handlers [who step sideways very quickly when giving the command] put their trunk on their head and lift their left front foot to be checked for rocks. It's a respect thing with elephants) and then they would be told "ALRIGHHHT" and they got free time in the park. (it's a free-range zoo and the elephants would go eat off the trees in the "Asia" section with the other animals around). When they were done they were once again asked to "get in line" and after checking feet told "alright, move up/tail up". When stopping at the Giant gate to get into the elephant yards they're also told "alright, move up" but once again, aren't allowed to just go play. The supervisor there works with the castrated bull (intact bulls go through must making them unsafe to handle in free contact [without barriers]) and many times simply tells him "alright" and he knows what she's asking by the inflection. He has a series of "tricks" he does and he transitions to the next with a simple "alright". He does this series with a bucket of "elephant chow" (bit pellets made specifically for elephants) on the ground by his head but doesn't touch it until she says "alright" with that certain inflection "ALRIGHHHT".

If I ever raised for GDD, I would use so much inflection with "alright" that it would probably confuse the pup in formal training when someone else didn't.

However, inflection is still possible with "OK". An "OK" to go eat is much different with me than an "OK" to go across a threshold. A threshold "OK" is very quiet and unobtrusive. Why? Because that's the "OK" I use out in public, I want the response to be controlled and more "subdued" than an "OK" at home, because most of the time there the pups are allowed to be just that, puppies.

Animals are taught how to differentiate what is said To them and what is said Around them. I can tell Alex to Hurry when we're rushing to get out the door but Eclipse doesn't squat right there (although I'm sure if I asked him to hurry on a pee-pad inside he would, although confused). Some organizations use other commands just because "they always have". Others change it to make it easier for their raisers and to reduce the "mistakes" but I think that's not addressing a problem, simply avoiding it. If you get an older pup who shreds paper or steals sock you Avoid the problem by removing all that from their reach. You Address the problem by setting them up, correcting for a wrong choice and rewarding for the correct. Avoidance is certainly easier, although addressing has a lasting affect.

I'll continue to use the release command "OK" until I'm told not to, however, my pet dogs will always know the difference between the different uses of the words I use as commands.

Sorry, that was long.

Ally & Alex (who is sleeping) w/ Eclipse (who is also sleeping but will be with us another 3.5 weeks) (& Emily & Aiden)


  1. You have a good point that a dog should be able to tell if it is a command for them or someone else. I hadn't thought about it, but sometimes if I am releasing Barrett from his bed and I just say "okay" without looking at him, and in the tone of voice I would use when talking to another person, he usually just stares at me trying to figure out if I meant him or not. Dogs really can tell whether the command is for them or not quite well (and if they can't, we have a problem:). I am struck that a lot of the Service and Guide dog orgs. use common everyday words and phrases for elimination commands. In your case, "Hurry" is used quite often in our language and could certainly confuse a puppy! NEADS uses "Better Go Now" which can also be confusing. "Get Busy" might be better because I don't think it is used very often. That's just my take on it. Anyway, It's a very good post!

  2. Wow Ally, that was lots to say about "ok" :) I agree with you though that the dogs should know the difference and if they dont then thier trainer probably needs to re-evaluate how they are training!! I also agree with the other comment on here about how "Hurry" could be confusing, as in this day and age it is definitely a very common phrase. Seems like someone is always rushing somewhere all the time and telling someone to "hurry". However at the same time I think that it comes back to your original point that the dogs should know the difference. I probably tell Koleby to "hurry" 20 times in one morning and !!THANK GOD!! Echo does not take that as permission to potty or god knows we would have A LOT of messes to clean up!!!
    All in all I would have to say good job!! =) That was very well written!!

  3. That is A LOT to say ;-) I didn't mean it to be that long... but I got carried away with the inflection part :-D It's very true, dogs listen more to tone and inflection than the word, as do other animals (even husbands!) I Really like GDB's potty command "Do Your Business" (for those that don't know) as you're not going to use that succession of words much, if ever, other than giving the pup permission to relieve :-D

  4. Very informative...Lot's to think about

  5. Dogs do know the difference, which is why we also use their name, and eye contact as well, so they know they are being talked to.

  6. Erin- good point. I didn't put eye contact or saying their name first for a couple different reasons, although I almost did. Some blind people simply canNot make eye contact with the dogs, so guide dogs can't rely on that. Also some organizations Don't say the name First. The dog is trained to listen for the command, however, they still know the difference between being spoken To and something being said with them around.