How Can I Teach My Dog to Drop a Toy?

Now move on to teaching him to let go. Say “drop it” and wait one second, and then do something to get him to let go of the toy in his mouth. For many dogs, this is as simple as placing a treat in front of his nose or — for toy-crazy dogs — pulling out a toy that is even more exciting than the one he already has in his mouth. As soon as he drops what he is holding, mark with a “good” and immediately treat or give the new toy.

I like to move the dog away from the original toy or chew he dropped by tossing the reward out and away so the dog has to move to get the reward, which allows the original object to be picked up in anticipation of the next session.

Make "Drop It" Part of Play

As you practice, teach your dog to respond to the verbal cue by saying “drop it” and waiting a little bit longer each time before doing whatever it is that gets your dog to drop the object. You can also teach him to respond to a hand signal by saying “drop it” and then moving an empty hand, shaped like it is holding a treat, in front of your dog and immediately marking with a “good” when he drops the toy. Once he drops what he is holding, give him a treat or toy as a reward.

Once your dog understands what drop it means and performs the behavior when asked, you can incorporate it into play, such as games of tug or fetch, by making it a condition of the game that he drop the toy on command before the game continues. If he will not drop the toy on command, the game is over.

If your dog ever picks up an item he should not have, ask him to drop it, and then reward him for dropping it or redirect him to a different outlet, such as replacing a sock he picked up with a dog toy that is OK for him to carry in his mouth. Practice this behavior in numerous areas and with various items to help your dog generalize the behavior and make him more likely to let go of whatever item is in his mouth, regardless of the situation.


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