Drop It! Teaching Your Dog to Drop Anything Quickly and Easily

One of the first commands I teach a new puppy is "OUT". It comes in very handy considering I like sporting breeds who are very tactile and love to pick up anything and everything, but it is quite typical of most puppies to want to explore the world with their mouths. Hence the need to teach the "out" command early on.

It's so important to know that your dog will reliably drop objects on command. You never know what they might pick up. It may be totally harmless or it may be life-threatening.

Want to Trade? Teaching Your Dog the "Out" Command

I typically use "out" to mean relinquish it to me. I teach it with toys using the following method:

  • encourage your dog to grab the toy
  • play and interact for varying amounts of time
  • while the dog is still engaged, say "out" and hold the toy still
  • place a piece of food on your dog's nose one second after you've given the cue "out"
  • when he spits the toy for the food, say "YES" or mark with a clicker

After several repetitions of the above, try a test. Repeat all of the steps, except this time, when you say "out", don't offer the trade. Simply hold the toy still, say out and see what you get. Most dogs learn quickly and once they've realized that the game is merely interrupted, rather than over, and they get a good reward as well - it's a win-win! If they spit the toy, say "YES" (or click) and reinforce with a jackpot (several rewards) to encourage the response to "out". Once you've finished rewarding, offer them the toy again and play.

As you continue to work on "out", vary the amount of time you spend playing and vary the rewards. Continue to use the reminder or offering a trade when you start a session. I will usually do this for a few days before weaning off the trade entirely and simply rewarding randomly for good responses. 

If your dog doesn't want to drop the toy, consider the following:

  • Is the toy more valuable than the trade you are offering? If your dog's toy is like ice cream and you're offering your dog peas, chances are they won't want to give up the toy, even if they fall for it once or twice. Be sure you stack the deck in your favor! The trade should always be more valuable than the object the dog is holding
  • Use another toy: If you have a dog who loves toys more than food, you may have a hard time with this. Consider using another toy of either equal or higher value to teach the trade. 
  • Watch your timing: make sure you are clearly saying "OUT", pausing for a second and then showing the trade. You don't want your cue to be the offering of the trade first. The cue should always be word first. We are relying on anticipation to encourage our dogs to "out".
  • Hold the toy still: It's hard to "out" if there is a fun game of tug going on. When you say "out", be sure you aren't still moving the toy and encouraging play. Hold the toy still so that your dog is no longer in play mode.
  • Play with a lower value toy. If your dog is really reluctant to give up the toy they've got, work with a toy that's not as exciting until you've mastered the "out". Once they have the idea, you can bring out more valuable toys.

It's worth noting that if you are dealing with a dog who has possession issues, this is not the solution. If you are seeing any guarding, snarling or growling behavior, you should find a qualified Dog Behaviouralist to work with immediately.

If you are working with a dog who does not show any possession issues, continue to build their ability to drop any object using this method. You never know when you'll need it!

 

Looking for a video tutorial of the process?

As always, Happy Training!