How to Teach Your Dog to Drop It

Two Parts:Gathering Your Training MaterialsTraining Your Dog to Drop It

“Drop it” is probably one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. Since dogs love to chew on things, you’ll have plenty of occasions to use this command. Drop that toy. Drop my shoe. Drop that stick before coming in the house. By teaching your dog the "drop it" command, it will either let an object fall out of its mouth or at least allow you to easily take it from it. So how do you actually teach a dog to “drop it”? You’ll need to condition your dog properly.

Part 1
Gathering Your Training Materials

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    Pick out a toy. Pick a toy that is easy for your dog to hold in its mouth and one it enjoys playing with. A stuffed squeaky toy or a dog bone is a good choice. In the grander scheme of things, it doesn’t matter too much what kind of toy you give your dog, because you are going to be teaching it to drop it anyway.[1]
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    Find some dog treats. You’ll want treats that your dog likes more than its toy. It is important to have a value system in mind that your dog will follow. A tasty treat is worth more to a dog than a dog toy. This can be your dog's normal treats or special treats just for training. Dogs like treats make from turkey, chicken, or cheese. Be sure to keep the amounts very small as you will be using them frequently during the training sessions.[2]
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    Pick a trigger like a clicker. In the early twentieth century, the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov discovered that dogs could be taught to “expect” food at the sound of a bell. This “neutral stimulus” — the sound of the bell — caused the dog’s to drool and expect food.[3] You can use the same principle here. Pick something that is portable and makes a sound. Make people use clickers, which literally just make a clicking sound. You might even consider just using a sound file on your phone.[4]
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    Get your leash. If your dog tends to run with its toys, you might want to keep it on a leash for your training. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep it in a confined space with minimal distractions. Your goal is to focus your dog's attention on the training, not on playing.[5]
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    Put on your patience cap. You need to have realistic expectations. Yes, it is possible that your dog might learn a basic command within a day or so, but it is far more realistic to expect small, yet noticeable improvements.[6]

Part 2
Training Your Dog to Drop It

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    Start training when your dog is about 3 months old. Each session should last about 15 minutes and you can attempt up to 3 sessions spread throughout the day. Typically, the younger the dog, the shorter each session will need to be because of limited attention spans.[7]
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    Offer your dog a toy. Make sure you have the toy in one hand and a treat in the other. Hold the toy in front of the dog’s mouth. Wait for your dog to sniff it and take it. You can even tell your dog to “take it”. This way your dog will learn to both take and drop things in the process. Always use the same command.[8]
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    Say “drop it” and offer a treat. Again, make sure you are using the same command each time. You can repeat the command a couple of times, but don’t use it too much. Place the treat in front of your dog's nose. Hopefully — if you’ve chose your treat wisely — your dog will drop the toy and eat the treat.[9]
    • If you’ve decided to use a trigger, now is the time to use it too. When you say drop it, click the clicker. Make sure that it occurs at the same time, so that your dog will associate “drop it” and the clicking sound with getting a treat.
    • Be sure to keep an assertive tone, but remain calm. You don’t want to yell at your dog and scare it.[10]
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    Repeat the process. Hold the toy up, until your dog takes it. Say “drop it”, while pressing the clicker and then offer a treat. As you practice this, move further away from the dog. This way your dog will expect a treat whenever it hears the command or the click. You don’t want your dog to only follow the command if you are right in front of it.[11]
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    Practice in different environments with different items. You want to hone your dog’s understanding of the command as much as you can. Remember that dogs are smart. Your dog might only associate the command with its toys or to specific places. You’ll want to teach your dog the command inside and outside. Offer your dog different items. If your dog really enjoys carrying a specific thing in its mouth, train it with that item.[12]
    • Always use acceptable chewing objects when practicing "drop it". You don't want to encourage your dog to pick up and drop something you wouldn't otherwise want her getting a hold of. For example, if your dog likes to chew on your shoes, don’t use your shoes to teach it this trick. It might end up associating chewing on your shoes with getting a treat.[13]
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    Reinforce your training constantly. You never know when a teaching moment will present itself. Keep treats and your clicker/trigger available. If you don't have treats, then offer your dog something of greater value. For example, exchange the TV remote for a dog toy. [14]

Things You'll Need

  • A few items your dog might like to chew on.
  • Dog training clicker.
  • Several treats made from ingredients like cheese or turkey.

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