How To Teach Your Dog To Drop It, According To A Trainer
This cue = important❗
Training your dog to drop it is an important cue that can help keep him from having any dangerous objects in his mouth.
The Dodo spoke with Shelby Semel, head trainer at Animal Haven rescue in New York City, to find out the best way to teach your dog to drop it.
Why teaching your dog to drop it is important
“Drop it” is an important cue for your dog to learn because it teaches him to let go or walk away from an object. So if he ever has something he shouldn’t have in his mouth, it’ll be easier for you to get him to let go of it.
If you were to chase your dog to get that item from his mouth, his instinct might be to swallow it instead, which can put him in a dangerous situation. So by teaching your dog to drop it, you could be saving his life!
Teaching your dog to drop it can also help when training him how to play fetch.
What you’ll need to train a dog to drop it
Before starting to teach your dog to drop it, you might need some things to be successful:
Clicker training allows you to precisely mark the exact behavior you’re trying to get your dog to do. When teaching your dog any basic cue, it’s always a good idea to have one (but not essential).
Try these pet training clickers from Amazon for $5.99
You’ll definitely need some of your pup’s favorite treats to help reinforce the cue, especially if your pup’s food-driven.
Like these Crazy Dog Train-Me! dog treats from Amazon for $3.99
Steps to train your dog to drop it
- Offer your dog one of his favorite toys, saying, "Take it."
- Once the toy’s in his mouth for a few seconds, hold a closed fist (with smelly treat inside) up by his snout.
- As soon as your dog releases the toy, mark with a “yes” or a click and open your fist to allow him to have the treat.
- If your dog doesn’t let go of the toy, DO NOT pull the toy from his mouth or pry open his jaws — this can send the wrong message (making the moment seem like a game or punishment). Instead, readjust the treat in your first and move it closer to his snout. If he still won’t let go, use a higher-value treat.
- After about 10 repetitions, you can say, "Drop it," as he drops it, followed by a “yes” marker. This will link the verbal command with the action.
- Repeat the steps several more times until you feel your dog is responding well. Then do the same motion but without a treat in your fist. Still “yes” and treat when he drops the toy.
Tips for training your dog to drop it
- You’ll want to add more distance between you and your pup each time you practice so your dog will respond to your verbal cue or hand signal from anywhere in the room. Start moving your fist an inch or two further away from his snout with each repetition.
- Begin using praise instead of treats when he does drop it with an easy item or when you are close by. Use “jackpot” rewards for a harder “drop it” (which means extra treats).
- Never chase your dog when he holds something undesirable in his mouth. This will turn into a game and will set you back. Stay calm. If you need to, go to the kitchen to get a treat and try your “drop it” cue.
- Don’t repeat the “drop it” verbal command more than three times (with 10 seconds in between each try). After three times, he loses out and you walk away from him. If there’s actually something in his mouth you need to get back, retrieve a treat and try again.
Additional tips for training your dog:
Here are some additional tips to make any training session a good one:
- Exercise your pup before training to ensure he’s calm (he learns better this way!).
- Always keep training light and fun (no stress = better results).
- Keep training sessions short (two to five minutes is ideal).
- Always have some treats with you (just in case he does something good).
- Vary how many treats you give (to keep him guessing).
- Teach the handle signals before the verbal cue (dogs learn best through body language).
- Say the verbal cue one time only (so that he knows it’s important).
- Practice in different environments (so your dog can learn how to do the trick anywhere).
- Eventually wean your dog off of treats (and he’ll eventually respond to the cue without them).
While teaching your dog cues can be a fun bonding experience, just remember to be patient — and give your pup plenty of breaks if you start to notice him getting restless.
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