Hey guys, this week we’re going to discuss two quick and easy commands. Those commands are “Drop it” and “take it”. Last week I talked about how to teach your dog to leave things, so if you haven’t checked that out, you can do so HERE.
This week it’s all about dropping things he shouldn’t have! I consider this the second most because ideally we should be able to say leave it. But the world isn’t perfect, of course, so you have to teach him to drop things he’s not supposed to have, too.
“Take it” is almost like a release word, but once installed, it insures that your dog will only take things that YOU TELL HIM TO TAKE. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Like you can wave a bowl of food around all day, but if you never actually tell your dog to take it, then he won’t! Now that takes some practice and it’s also mostly show-offy, but it’s definitely good to have for younger or toy-driven dogs.
TEACHING “DROP IT”
If you thought “Leave it” was an easy command, “Drop it” is even easier. However, there are a few things to remember.
- First. You NEVER want to try to pull something out of your dog’s mouth. You never want to encourage him to keep things away from you and trying to pull things away will do that.
- Second. If your dog is actually a resource guarder (does he growl when he has something and thinks you may take it away?) then you have to proceed with caution and be realistic about your goals.
- Third. Just like in the “Leave it” command, we’re not going to start with saying the command. We have to teach him what to do before we start throwing words at him.
If feel like you need a LOT more help with this command or if you feel like your dog may be a unique situation, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk about what you’re going through.
Level 1: All right, let’s get down to business. Like I said, this is a pretty easy command but the only catch is you may have to set your dog up for it. Okay so get your dog really excited about his favorite toy, get him playing with it, even do a little tug of war, that’s totally okay. Once your dog is good and excited and isn’t letting that toy go, TAKE THE MOST TASTY TREAT FROM A SECRET PLACE (I would install the treats in your pocket some time way earlier than you start playing with him) and put it under his nose. Wait for him to drop the toy, and then you give him the treat.
Let your dog work it out on his own. The first time it may take a minute for him to realize that he can’t get the treat if the toy is in his mouth. So be patient.
If your dog NEVER puts the toy down, then you have to upgrade your treat. Go from crunchy snacks to soft treats, and then on to boiled chicken or fruit if you have to.
Ideally you want to be able to PICK UP the toy that he’s dropped. If your dog is a puppy or easy-going dog, don’t reward him until you’ve picked up the toy. If your dog is a known resource guarder DON’T DO THIS. Instead, put your foot on the toy and slide the toy out of his range to pick it up. It’s the safer option.
Passing Level 1. Does your dog:
- Instantly spit out the toy when you present the treat?
- Take a minute to weigh the options but eventually set the toy down?
- Try to place the toy in your hand? (One of my dogs insists on doing this, it’s only annoying when he drops dog meat in my hand)
Level 2: This is where we say the command. Now remember, in the command sequence, the command always comes BEFORE the action. So, yes with the treat present, he’ll drop the toy, but now we have to install that same behavior onto the command drop it. So what you’ll do is say “Drop it”, give the dog one second, and then present the treat to his nose like in Level 1.
The important thing to remember is that the command comes FIRST. I can’t stress that enough. Even if your dog sounds like he’s not listening, say the command first, it’s important. Say it first and say it once and then continue.
What you’re looking for here is what we call in dog training world, “jumping the prompt” or you do it so many times that eventually, when you say “drop it” he starts to spit the toy out, spits the toy out, or fixes his mouth to d it.
Passing Level 2. Does your dog:
- Spit the toy out as you’re pulling up the treat?
- Spit the toy out BEFORE you get to the treat?
This is really the only two steps of this command. The boss battle, if you can even call it that, is to have him drop something and be okay with a verbal reward and not need the food. But I talk about phasing out rewards OVER HERE. At first, you have to be prepared to give him a food reward every time you ask him to drop something.
TEACHING “TAKE IT”
This is a command that is clearly self rewarding and there are many ways to slip it in. You don’t have to “train” take it, dogs will just pick it up on the fly if you use it enough. You should use “take it” when you’re giving him freebies (like I sometimes give mine strawberries or apples, so I’ll say “take it” when I do that), or when you’re playing fetch or tug of war, you can say “take it” to cue your dog to take the other end.
I also like to play a game with mine where we work on me placing the food bowl down on the ground without them jumping up and eating while I’m still holding it. I’m sure there are some people that think that making your dog sit for his bowl is cruel, but if I’m just going to hand you some food, I think the least you can do is not maul me in the process. So the game is that I have to put the food bowl down on the ground and then “release” the dog to eat. This is primarily where I teach “Take it” to my dogs.
The second time I teach take it to my dog is when I’m working on “leave it”. Remember how I said never to just give the dog the thing you asked him to leave? Well I said that then because we hadn’t gone over “take it”. Sometimes, especially when you’re working with treats, you will eventually come to a point where you want to reward him with something he’s been asked to leave. This is when you say “Take it” before presenting him with the thing and encouraging him to take it. That way you’re not breaking your “leave it” training.
And that’s it! Happy training!
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