Written by: Janine Allen
Dogs are not innately thieves. They put things in their mouths because that’s just what dogs do. It is when they believe they will be punished that they grab and slink away. Yelling at the dog and running after him will only cause distrust in you. The best response to have when your dog picks something up is to cheerfully call him to you and reward him. As you will see in the video, the process of rewarding with food causes the dog to drop the object.
“But won’t my dog decide that picking up things means he will get a reward?” He might, but by practicing this exercise daily, and building your dog’s trust and desire for rewards, he will be dropping the item before he even reaches you. You will develop a sense of when your dog is going to grab something and you can call and reward him before he even gets to it.
You will find teaching Drop It easier if you have worked your dog on Impulse Control first.
HOW TO TEACH “DROP IT”
- Leave an item on the floor that is safe and mildly attractive to your dog. In the video we used a plastic bottle, plastic cup and a plastic bag (might not be safe for some dogs).
- Find which food/treats your dog likes best and have it ready BEFORE approaching your dog.
- Try to stay quiet since an elevated voice may make your dog want to play keep-away, grip the item tighter, or even swallow it.
- Hold food right up to the dog’s nose then scatter it on the floor. Let the dog eat the food and pick the item up again. The goal is to get the dog to trust that you are not there to take something away but to redirect his attention to something else that might be more interesting to him.
- When the dog’s interest in the item has decreased, slowly take it away and continue feeding him.
- As your dog gets better at this, start giving him more appealing items: dirty sock, a freezer zip-top bag with food in it, washcloth with a smear of peanut butter, etc. Keep dog on leash if you feel he will try to run away with it.
In the video below, you will see Foxy, the lab puppy, learning drop it with her handler.
Sometime—way in the future—you can start adding a cue such as “drop it” or “out” but only when you have certainty that your dog will drop the item when you approach with food.
Janine Allen is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviour Specialist. Check out her website here!
Did you find these tips helpful for your and your FirstMate? Have any training skills you’re dying to learn? Let us know in the comments below!