Does your dog “sit” and “stay” like a champ but run the other way when you ask him to give up that toy in his mouth? Join the club. Once your pup has those basic commands down pat, it’s common to not spend as much time on teaching him to “drop it.” But this cue is crucial, says Robert Haussmann, founder and lead trainer at DogBoy NYC. “Dogs are scavengers by nature,” he explains. “A reliable ‘DROP IT’ or ‘OUT’ command helps protect your personal belongings and keeps your dog safe from ingesting objects like chicken bones, chocolate, or dangerous chemicals like rodenticides.” Plus, having a reliable “drop it” command makes it way more fun to play games like fetch with your pup.
Teaching your dog the “drop it” command can be pretty easy—as long as you teach it correctly, says Haussmann. “Many people attempt to teach this by chasing their puppy around the coffee table shouting ‘Drop it! Drop it!’ This will only teach her that ‘drop it’ is the noise you make while playing,” he notes. Likewise, teaching it with force and intimidation might make your pup guard treasured objects from you, and maybe even growl or bite to protect them. But that doesn’t mean getting your dog to listen to you is impossible. Follow Haussman’s tips below to teach your pup to “drop it” every time.
Teach your dog with treats
Start in a quiet, relaxed environment so your dog doesn’t get too excited or distracted. Calmly say “drop it” and immediately present a reward she’ll want (think: her favorite treat). While she chooses between the object in her mouth and the treat, don’t repeat yourself, says Haussmann: “Let her figure it out. She will eventually drop it and then you can reward her.” The important thing, he says, is to introduce the command just before presenting the food, then withhold the food until your dog drops the toy. (If your dog seems hesitant to follow the command even when food is offered, try it when he’s hungry, suggests Haussmann.)
Once your pup masters dropping for rewards, gradually reduce the treats and offer a snuggle or game of tug and war instead, offering treats only occasionally; this will teach your dog to respond to the cue by itself. Plus, occasional rewards are more exciting and effective than guaranteed treats every time, notes Haussmann.
Play Tug of War
Does your dog act like “drop it” is code for “let’s play tug?” That can be an annoying response when you want him to let go of an object. But playing tug of war can actually be a good way to teach this command, says Haussmann: “I will play tug with a dog for a minute, using a rope toy or ball, then produce a food reward and bribe them to drop it.”
Work Your Way Up
When first teaching the command, stick to low-value items—like a sock or rope toy. Once your dog starts to get the hang of “dropping it,” test his obedience with more enticing objects and in different locations (not just in the comfort of your living room). “Work on this command a few minutes a day with different objects and in different locations and you soon should be able to ask your dog to drop that pizza crust outside on a walk,” says Haussmann.
If your dog grabs something you don’t want her to have—say, a shoe or your child’s toy—try not to flip out. “Don't panic, don’t get angry, and don’t chase her,” says Haussmann. Your pup might be trying to outsmart you and lure you into chasing her—and if you do, you’re just reinforcing the behavior. Instead of running around the house after her or yelling, get a treat and calmly ask her to drop the object in her mouth.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.