Early Release, Self Release, and Quick Release

17 Oct 2007Steve Schwarz

On the Clean Run Email List Linda Mecklenburg posed the question “What exactly is a quick release?” from a contact stop position. So I thought I would take that as a prompt to post my definitions of these terms.

I can’t recall specifically where I learned the distinctions between these releases but I probably have Dana Pike and Rachel Sanders to thank for teaching me. I’ll present them from the soonest release point to the latest.

Components of the Contact End Position and Release

There are three steps in any stopped contact position:

  1. The dog has one or more paws in the contact area
  2. The dog assumes their stopped contact position
  3. The dog is released from contact position by the handler's release cue

Early Release

An early release happens when the handler gives the dog’s release cue as soon as the dog has one or more paws in the contact area.

This behavior can be the most detrimental to a dog’s contact behavior because the dog has been given it’s release cue without actually performing their stopping behavior. Since continuing with the course without stopping is very rewarding for the dog, Early Releases can degrade a dog’s stop position.

That being said, for the important trial it may be worth it to use an early release, even if it means going back and training contact end positions to rebuild your stopping criteria. You’ll see handlers in national and world competitions ask their dogs for an Early Release, in those situations the whole year’s contact training was put in to make up for that one Early Release.

Self Release

As the name should imply a “Self Release” is when the dog decides it should leave its contact position without receiving the release cue from the handler.

As much as handlers want to “blame” the dog when this occurs it is a training problem. It is critical to determine if the dog really understands his release cue and that only that cue releases the dog from their end position. Many times handler’s think their verbal cue is what releases their dog, but they have accidentally paired that verbal with a physical cue and the dog is really following the physical cue (i.e. handler motion).

If you have a dog that Self Releases, test yourself and your dog by cueing your dog’s end position, standing stationary and giving your dog his release cue (assuming it is a verbal cue). If he doesn’t move until you move then he is really using your motion and not your verbal cue as his release. Similarly, you can cue your end position, keep moving and not give the release cue; if your dog releases then, again, your movement is what is triggering his release not your verbal cue. So you have a dog that doesn’t understand your release cue. Look carefully at your practice/trial video and you might see that this is the case.

Quick Release

The Quick Release occurs when the instant the dog gets into his end position the handler gives the dog’s release cue. When done optimally the dog will be stopped for just a split second in their end position before being released.

This is a challenging release for a handler to perform. If the handler cues too early they end up with an Early Release and an Early Release can lead to a dog that doesn’t stop on their contacts. When cued correctly there shouldn’t be any negative effect on the dog’s end position, they did their part and got to move on.

Comparing Releases

If we put the three components of the stopped contact together with the three types of releases we can make a little table that might make understanding the differences between these three concepts a little easier to see.

Early ReleaseSelf ReleaseQuick Release
In Contact
In Position
Release Cued

If you want to see what other folks think you can follow the email discussion starting with Linda’s email (subscription required).

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