This past Sunday I had two new puppies join my puppy class — and, as always happens when a new dog and owner pair joins, they came with questions!
One of the issues they were dealing with was teaching their new puppy how to “drop it” when asked.
My favorite 100% positive method of teaching drop it is captured in this great video by Domesticated Manners.
In case you can’t watch the video, here are the basic steps…
How To Teach A Dog To “Drop It” On Cue
- Choose your cue. It doesn’t matter to the dog if you use “drop it,” “leave it,” or “catapult” but it is important that students are consistent and unlike most cues, with this method of teaching drop it, they use the cue right from the start so make sure they choose the cue first.
- Say your cue, drop food. The dog shouldn’t have anything in his mouth at this point — our goal is to teach him when we say drop it there is an opportunity for reinforcement. In the video, they also make a point to point to and move the food after dropping it to simultaneously teach the dog that it’s okay for your hand to move down toward the ground (later to pick up the dropped item) and to create a positive association with your hand near food. Order is important here – first the cue, then the food.
- Repeat step 2 (many times). In the video he practices standing up, sitting down, and recommends practicing in different places.
- Add a low value toy. Pick an item the dog likes but not more than food and present it for the dog to take. Let the dog have the item (at this stage I don’t recommend playing tug – start with the toy fairly boring) and then after a few seconds say drop it and drop food on the floor. Do not pick up the toy; just let the dog eat and then return to their toy. Repeat.
- Gradually make the toy more exciting. This can mean using more exciting toys or gradually beginning to add small bits of playing with the toy between repetitions of “drop it.” Then take this on the road, practicing in many places, with many objects.
In class this past week I introduced this method as a “cheat” for teaching dogs to drop it — after all, it’s a no-conflict way of teaching a dog a quick drop it and most dogs (especially food motivated ones) learn this almost right away!
Photo credit: Tammy Garamella for a picture of her adorable corgi puppy, Keno.