How To Teach a Dog to “Drop It”

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 itemTraining is the perfect time to teach your dog to drop items from their mouth on-command.

Training: How to Teach “Drop It”

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Give the command “DROP IT”. Wait for your dog to drop the object.
  4. 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”

Dogs can be stubborn and they may want to keep the object you’re requesting despite hearing the “DROP IT” command. If this happens, teach the “DROP IT” command by trading for another object.
  1. Hold your dog’s collar, just like above. Remember, this is just to keep them from running away.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

Trading an object also works for when your dog has an object that they should not. By trading an object, you are telling your dog “I will give you this item if you give me that.” To them, they learn to understand that dropping an object does not make them a ‘loser’ – rather, they will receive something for following your command, sometimes of even greater value.
 
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!
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB is one of the founders of Wag Enabled (originally Why Does My Dog). Aly has a certificate in applied animal behavior through the University of Washington and is a certified veterinary assistant and AKC Evaluator. She aims to provide an unbiased perspective on dog training by providing practical, intelligent, and caring advice for people to impart on their canine companions