The Puppy Training Podcast

Episode #64 Drop It

October 22, 2020 Baxter & Bella Puppy Training Season 2 Episode 64
The Puppy Training Podcast
Episode #64 Drop It
Show Notes Transcript

Does your puppy ever get something and they don’t want to give it up? They clamp down on the item and may even run from you as you approach? Today we are talking about getting your dog to drop something they find really valuable - willingly from their mouth. 



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DROP IT

Does your puppy ever get something and they don’t want to give it up? They clamp down on the item and may even run from you as you approach? Today we are talking about getting your dog to drop something they find really valuable - willingly from their mouth. 

If you need help with a basic drop it, check out our online puppy school at baxterandbella.com for more information. 

Most of the time a simple drop it is enough for our dog to let go of something in their mouth like a toy or chew that we’ve regularly practiced with. We teach them we always trade up which motivates them to release an item when asked. 

But those items like paper, paper towels, food wrappers, pine cones, socks or other novel items may be a bit trickier. By default, canines can have a natural tendency to protect what is theirs and if it isn't properly managed, this tendency has the possibility to turn into unintended and overly competitive aggression, which is oftentimes referred to as resource guarding. We don’t want that. Here are some helpful tips to get your puppy to release things willingly! 

First and foremost, do NOT give the item attention. This is often the first mistake dog owners make. I understand some items may be alarming and there is a need to get it back - but the more attention you bring to the situation, the more likely your dog will view what they have as valuable and as such will want to protect it more. 

So, do take mental note that your dog has something you need to get back - but do not look at or talk to them - or the item they have.

Instead, I teach my puppy a game. Whenever I approach I teach them to feel excited I am coming! They look up in anticipation of what I might be bringing them and forget about the item they had in the first place. 

To start, let your puppy chew something they do not over value - something they regularly get and if you asked them to drop it they most likely would. Remember we want to set our dogs up for success and anytime we introduce a new training game - we want them to win and win easily! This helps them want to play again. 

As your puppy is chewing the item, walk by them without looking at or talking to them. (Stay several feet away if necessary as we want your puppy to remain relaxed. If you notice your puppy starts to tense, hover or look at you with whites in his eyes, you are too close - scoot back.) 

From the appropriate distance, as you walk past, toss a small pencil eraser sized piece of cooked turkey right between your dog’s front paws - and keep walking. Do not look at or talk to your dog. Just toss and walk past. Repeat 5-6 or more times. 

The goal is to get your puppy to look up at you as you approach - at this point they are anticipating you will bring them something good.

If needed use several different kinds of food rewards to up the motivation. When you get a very clear look from your dog as if to say, “Cool! Here they come!” you can move to step 2. 

Step 2 means you walk past and drop the cooked turkey but this time, pick up the chew your dog had, set it right back down again, and walk away. So we are adding the step of touching what they had, but giving it right back and leaving. 

If you move to step 2 and your dog starts to tense, you moved on too quickly. Go back to step one and repeat until they are cooperating. 

When picking up the item is going well, move to step 3 of walking toward your dog, feeding them a food reward, picking up their item, replacing it with something BETTER - always upgrade if possible - then walking away. 

Keys to success include always keeping it at a level your puppy feels comfortable. We don’t want to reward any tense, stiff body language. Growling means they feel threatened and it is their way of asking us to back off. They found the item first. If this is your dog, start from a further distance away in step one. You also may need to change your food reward to something your dog really loves - increasing the size of the reward can help as well. 

Going through this process can help change your dog’s emotional response from feeling threatened when you approach to feeling excited! They no longer clamp down on what they have as they are excited to see what you have! They know you’ll always trade up - your approach always means good things for them. 

Once your puppy is really great at all three steps with objects they don’t guard, move to practicing on items of higher value. Safety is our number one priority so keep distance and work at a pace your dog can handle. If you have any fear your dog may bite or get overly protective of what they have, please call a local trainer to come assist you in the process. 

The nice thing about this game is it teaches your dog to feel differently about people approaching when they have something and it leads to better cooperation when they find something they shouldn’t have. 

Now, this takes time as does all training. In the meantime, it is very important to manage your situation and prevent your dog from getting things they shouldn’t. Use closets, cupboards, doors, gates, the crate, pen or a leash to keep your dog away from things they may like to get and not give back. Then aim to practice the described steps on a daily basis. 

Keep a chart and list items your dog likes from low to high. Start with the low value item - go through all three steps - then move up the ladder. Don’t be afraid to go back in the training process if you recognize you moved on too quickly. 

Inevitably there will be emergencies. For these times I keep a bag of boiled chicken or cooked roast beef in my freezer. I can pull out a few pieces when needed, go place them on the floor a few feet from my dog and when they go to eat the meat, I pick up the item they had and put it away. 

Again, the less you react to what they have, the better. They won’t feel the need to hurry and swallow it or run off with it. Grab your emergency handful, walk past your dog so they smell it but again, don’t look at or talk to them, place it on the floor away from them then retrieve the item you need back. 

Reward them for any good behaviors they give you. For example, when they look up at you, mark YES and toss them a food reward. You don’t need to be right next to them at first. Stay your distance and see if you can capture their attention. 

The grass is always greener on the other side right? This game helps your dog feel excited to see what you have and it takes the attention off of the item we want back. This makes it so you’ll be much more likely to get that item back. 

Pairing this training with teaching a DROP IT cue is something every dog needs to learn. And the concept of not bringing attention to the item your dog has that you want back is something every owner needs to realize. 

Hope this helps! Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have. As always, we’d love to help you train your dog in our online puppy school. We teach live classes, courses and weekly Q&A’s. Hope to see you soon. 

Happy training!