Dog and tug toy
Dog owners spend a lot of time working on keeping things out of their pups’ mouths — so it may seem counterintuitive to actually teach a dog to take something with his teeth. But as a dog trainer, I can assure you that teaching a dog to pick up certain items with his teeth is actually a good practice.

Training “take it” (or “take”) consists of giving your dog permission to hold of an item he is already interested in. Training a dog to “take it” can help provide predictable structure and encourage chewing only on approved toys and treats. “Take it” also teaches dogs to wait patiently during interactions and play until being given permission to take an item. Teaching your dog to “take it” offers an easy way to help keep your dog safer and well behaved.

Teaching "Take It"

For most dogs, teaching “take it” is as easy as giving the cue just before handing the dog an item he wants, like a delicious treat or an enticing toy. Alternatively, you can teach “take it” by giving the cue just as your dog is about to grab an appropriate item with his mouth. In either case, with enough repetitions, he will learn to pair the cue (“take” or “take it”) with the action (picking up a toy or treat).

“Take it” is most effective when it’s paired with an understanding of “drop it,” which signals the canine to willingly let go of an item in his mouth. The goal of both “take it” and “drop it” is to help ensure that your dog only picks up items that he is allowed to have in his mouth. The cue to “take” signals that it’s OK to pick up a specific toy or treat, while “drop it” lets him know that an item is off-limits. Knowing both commands can help prevent him from chewing or eating something dangerous.

How "Take It" Helps

Using “take it” to encourage your dog to play with appropriate items can help put a stop to unwanted chewing. “Take it” tells your dog that a toy is available for his use, while “drop it” can be used to discourage chewing on items that are off-limits. “Take it” can also be helpful when you are introducing new toys — the familiar cue lets him know the item is his to play with or chew on.

“Take it” can also be useful for impulse-control exercises, like asking your dog to wait for the food bowl or to remain in a stay. If your dog is in a sit stay — for example, when he’s waiting for his food to be served — “take it” can become the release word to move out of his stationary position and eat his dinner.

For hesitant or overly polite canines, teaching “take it” can be a useful way to embolden your dog to move toward a toy by making it clear that he’s allowed — and encouraged — to do so.

More on Vetstreet: