How to Teach Your Dog To Drop It | Pupford
October 24th, 2023
Filed under Training
Teaching your dog a ‘Drop It’ cue is a skill that can be used in a variety of scenarios. Whether you are using it while you have a fun game of fetch or asking your dog to drop a potentially dangerous object - this article will go over the ins and outs of how to get your dog to drop anything.
Here's what we will be covering:
- What You Will Need
- Drop It vs. Leave It
- How to Start Training
- Building up Generalization
WHAT YOU NEED TO TEACH YOUR DOG TO 'DROP IT'
First, let’s talk about tools. Here are some of the products you will find helpful as you start training:
DROP IT VS LEAVE IT
is for things they can never have. Maybe that is your kid’s socks, the TV remote, or that bunny on a hiking trail that they just really want to chase. If taught properly, a ‘Leave It’ cue can be used to avoid having to use a ‘Drop It’ cue altogether. Think of it as a preventative measure.
But let’s say, someone left the trash open and your dog already grabbed a candy wrapper. Maybe this is something you haven’t practiced ‘Leave It’ with yet and it just smelt too good for your dog to resist. If they already have it in their mouth, I would use a ‘Drop it’ cue. This would also let me know that maybe my dog could use some work on ‘Leave It’ with trash can items 😉
I would also use ‘Drop It’ while playing a game of fetch or engaging in a flirt pole session. I wouldn’t use ‘Leave It’ here because this is not an item my dog can never have. I am just using it as a way to safely interact with them so I do not have to take it out of their mouth or create frustration.
HOW TO START TRAINING 'DROP IT'
- To begin training, start with your dog in a relatively calm state, not right in the middle of a play session. Ideally in a space with low distractions, like your living room.
- Offer them a toy, any toy will do, but ideally not their favorite toy of all time. Once they have the toy in their mouth, show them a treat in your hand.
- As soon as they drop the toy to get the treat, Click! Or say Yes! To mark the behavior of dropping the object and give them the treat.
- Once they can reliably do this 8 out of 10 times, start to add in the ‘Drop It’ verbal cue as you show them the treat.
- As you continue to practice, stop showing them the treat in your hand. Instead, say ‘Drop It’, wait for them to drop the toy, Click! Or say Yes! And give them a treat.
By doing this, we are taking away the lure and strengthening the value of the verbal cue. The end goal is to be able to say ‘Drop It’ and your dog will perform the behavior without being shown that you have a treat.
Just remember to only say the verbal cue once. We want the verbal cue to be ‘Drop It’ not ‘Drop it, drop it, drop it”, right? 😉
If your dog isn’t able to perform the behavior with just the verbal cue, don't stress! This is just an indicator that you may need to go back a step and continue practicing with the food lure.
Troubleshooting: If you start this exercise and your dog is unwilling to drop the toy to get the treat, try using a lower-value toy (something that is not SO exciting to them) and a higher-value treat.
If your dog wants to run away with the toy, have them on a leash for the training session.
BUILDING UP GENERALIZATION WHEN TEACHING YOUR DOG 'DROP IT'
Dogs do not generalize behaviors. This means that just because they can perform a behavior during a training session in the living room, doesn’t mean they will perform it when they are super excited in the backyard or at the park.
You will need to practice cues in various situations and at various levels of excitement. We may also have to go back a few steps in training while we are working in new environments with new distractions. This is completely normal! Don’t get discouraged.
A great way to do this is during play sessions. When you are playing fetch (or any other toy-related game) with your dog and they bring it back to you, ask them to ‘Drop It’. Once they do, the reward is that you throw the ball again.
It can be helpful to do this with multiple of the same or similar toys. This way when you ask your dog to drop the toy they have, you can show them you have another toy to offer.
If your dog has a high play drive or is unwilling to drop the toy at first, go back a couple of steps to luring and offer them a treat for dropping the toy. If they are in a heightened level of excitement it can be harder for them to perform cues they could previously perform while calm.
Bonus Tip: While playing with my dogs I like to include some form of impulse control training. This will help to regulate their emotions while in a heightened state. For example, while engaging with the flirt pole, I will ask my dog to ‘Drop It’ and then I will tell them to ‘Wait’ while I retake ownership of the flirt pole. Once they have sat and waited for a few seconds or so, I will release them to play with the flirt pole again. And repeat.
MAINTENANCE FOR THE 'DROP IT' CUE
Practice, practice, practice! This isn’t something that will happen overnight. It will take lots of repetition to build a positive learning history and create a reliable response.
Practice with various objects and toys, and in various environments. If you have other people in your home, ask them to practice too!
Avoid taking objects away from your dog by just prying them out of their mouth. This can create resource guarding, lead to accidental bites, and make your dog avoidant of you when they have certain items.
And with that, you are on your way to teaching your dog a ‘Drop It’ cue!