Dogs use their mouth and nose to receive a vast amount of information about the outside world. Inevitably, your dog will put something in their mouth that they shouldn’t because it is dangerous for the animal or because your dog may damage the item. Training is the perfect time to teach your dog to drop items from their mouth on-command.
Training: How to Teach “Drop It”
- Grab hold of your dog’s collar to prevent them from tugging. Your grip should be strong enough that your dog will not run away, but loose enough where they do not feel any discomfort.
- Grab hold of the object in the dog’s mouth. Do not pull or pry their mouth open. By grabbing the object, you are indicating to your dog that you want the object. Pulling the object turns the drill into a game of tug-of-war, and prying the mouth may cause your dog to become defensive. Remember, you want your dog to drop the object on their own.
- Give the command “DROP IT”. Wait for your dog to drop the object.
- After your dog drops the object, reward with verbal praise. Resume playing and repeat the exercise. Make sure that you always give the object back to your dog, unless it is dangerous. You want your dog to learn to trust you when you tell them to drop an item.
Troubleshooting: My Dog Won’t “Drop It”
- Hold your dog’s collar, just like above. Remember, this is just to keep them from running away.
- Give the command “DROP IT.” This time, present something to trade for the object, such as another toy or a treat. You want this trade item to be of equal or higher value for the dog.
- When your dog drops whatever is in their mouth, give them the item you are holding in their hand. Reward with verbal praise for following your instructions.
Dogs will explore, and as an owner, you have to assume that your dog will try to get into anything and everything in your house. Until your dog has reached significant training milestones, always assume that anything left out for your dog to reach is fair game for your dog to play. That is how they see it at least… When teaching “DROP IT,” make training into a game and test your dog’s response time. Finally, remember to reward your dog for doing the command right, even if they do not follow your instructions the first time. Good luck and have fun!