Training Drop it
By Sarah Fulcher, CDBC
There are three ways I will commonly use to teach dogs to drop items. I don’t often use a clicker because my hands are full but will usually use a verbal “yes” marker at least. You can use a clicker or a verbal, I will just say refer to mark/marker/marking in this article and that means either one.
The first is to try is the dead toy method. Play with the dog for a little bit and then when you want to initiate teaching the drop/out, just hold the toy firmly and into your body and stop tugging with the dog. This makes the game BORING. You can say “Drop” or “Out” or whatever you want your word to be here once but then just wait for the dog to let go – do not repeat the word as the dog is just making the association and we don’t want to accidentally teach them their cue is “drop drop drop drop”. Once the dog gets bored of trying to tug with no one playing the game with them, after a few seconds they will let go and you can mark and re-initiate play with the dog as the “treat” – no food needed here. If the dog doesn’t stop tugging on the toy after a few seconds, calmly reach down and gently grab their collar and hold on to them. This will prevent them from tugging, you can say “drop” again and then mark and and play again when they let go.
Dead toy drop it is not a good method to use with a dog you want to build drive in – for that I would recommend the two toy method to keep enthusiasm up.
In this session with puppy Brew, I am using a dead toy out.
Treat on the Nose
The second way I frequently teach drop is to use food. For this I usually will not use kibble but rather something with a stronger odour. When they dog has the toy well gripped, say “Drop” (or whatever) and put the stinky food directly on the dog’s nose. Usually they will let go of the toy at the scent of the treat. Mark, feed the treat, and re-initiate play. It’s important to say Drop BEFORE you move to put the treat to the dog’s nose, as we want the dog to anticipate the food when it hears Drop and let go of the toy. This should start to happen pretty quickly, at that point you can mark the drop, feed a treat, and start playing again for a few reps, but fairly quickly you should be able to ask the dog to Drop, and then reward the drop with playing with the toy again eliminating the treat.
The third option is to use two toys. It’s very similar to the treat method. When the dog has one toy, say “drop” and pull the other toy out from behind your back so the dog can see it. Usually they get excited for the new toy, drop the original one, and you can mark the drop and play with the new toy with them as a reward. With this one you can go back and forth. After a bit the dog should anticipate the new toy coming out and start dropping the toy on hearing the word Drop, and then you can also get rid of the second toy.
Chirag Patel’s Drop
I’ve also used Chirag Patel’s method in the past and found that it works very well.