Teaching a new dog some tricks sounds like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be, even for new dog owners. While teaching a dog to ‘drop it’ sounds very basic, it is often overlooked.
Even when trained, dogs like putting everything in their mouth – hair bands, underwear, dirty socks – literally anything that fits. And the more you chase your dog; chances are, he’s just going to keep running away.
‘Drop it’ is an important trick, just as important as ‘leave it,’ which instructs a dog not to pick up something.
This article will give you some tips on how to teach your dog this vital trick. You don’t have to turn it into a strict training session, but you can make it playtime, too.
Teaching Your Dog ‘Drop It’ with Dog Treats
• Trade the toy for a treat.
Instead of completely removing the positive reinforcement (toy), give something else just as good in exchange. During playtime, if your dog has a toy in his mouth, say ‘Drop!’ then immediately place a treat in his mouth.
Do not wait for him to open his mouth on his own. Once the treat is in his mouth, your dog has no choice but to drop the toy.
The goal of this exercise is for your dog to associate the command ‘Drop’ with positive reinforcement (treat). Repeat this step at least five times.
• When your dog has a toy in his mouth, say ‘Drop!’ then wait 3 seconds for this mouth to open.
Mark the moment he opens his mouth with the words ‘Good Job’ or ‘Yes,’ then reward him with a treat. If he doesn’t open his mouth, pop a treat in their mouth in exchange for the toy. Keep repeating.
• Try the command even when your dog is not in the middle of play.
The next time you see your dog with something in his mouth, say, ‘Drop!’. If he follows, reward him with a treat. This could be used for a toy or any household item.
Teaching your Dog ‘Drop It’ Using Tug
• Give your dog the tug toy and initiate playtime with your usual start word. You can use the words ‘Get It!’ to signal the beginning of playtime.
• Once your dog has a good hold on the toy, say ‘Drop It!’ once, immediately stop playing, but keep your hands on the toy. The point is to make the game less exciting for your dog until he gets bored and releases the toy.
• When your dog lets go of the toy, reward him with praise or more play. Give him the cue/start word, toss him the toy, and get back to playing tug.
• Keep repeating until your dog responds more promptly to the ‘Drop It’ cue.
• Once he learns to follow the command with a tug toy, you can use it for other items.
My dog doesn’t want to listen!
Try to start small. If your dog refuses to drop his favorite remote control, start with less exciting objects.
The more forbidden the object, the harder it is for him to drop it. More importantly, do NOT chase your dog. Early on in this article, we already said that chasing after your dog will only make him run away from you.
Another thing you can do is to play pretend. Bend down on the ground and pretend to look at something amazing. Maybe even pretend to eat it just to get your dog’s attention.
Your dog will probably wonder what it is and come over, dropping the object from his mouth.
One more tip would be to calmly walk into the room where your dog is, open a bag of treats or food noisily, making sure that your dog hears it.
You can also grab his favorite toy, toss it around, and look excited playing with it. Your dog should come over right away.
Remember, never pry your dog’s mouth open and take away the object. This puts you at significant risk and may even make your dog choke on the object. It also increases the chances of your dog being more possessive of the item in the future.
Know when to stop.
Suppose your dog starts growling or lunges at you when he has the object in his mouth; back away immediately.
Dogs can get possessive, and this is one way of letting you know that. If the object isn’t entirely valuable or dangerous, let your dog have it for a while until he loses interest.
If the object poses a risk, that’s when things change. Grab his favorite food or something he only gets on special occasions, and give him a piece. Your dog should leave the toy and go for the food.
As he munches on the food, keep throwing pieces of food farther and farther away from the object. Once he is far enough, grab the item and keep it away.
If you’re still worried, taking a pet first aid class could be of great help for you.
Teaching your dog to ‘Drop it’ would benefit both of you, but keep in mind that his ability to learn depends on many factors.
Your dog’s age, patience, intelligence, and temperament; your patience, training skills, and dedication as a trainer all contribute to his learning process.
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