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The Dog Drop It Command

Updated on September 30, 2013
Avoid playing the "keep away game" if you want a dog eager to "drop it."
Avoid playing the "keep away game" if you want a dog eager to "drop it." | Source

Why Teach the Drop it Command?

There are many reasons why you want Rover to learn the drop it command. First and foremost, safety. If you have ever worked or have worked for a vet, you know for a fact that you'll get hundreds of phone calls from frantic owners claiming their dog got into something harmful he found on the floor. Whether it's one of your high blood pressure pills or a piece of baker's chocolate you just dropped, you know things can get quite serious when Rover gulps them down. Fortunately, many items can be brought back up by inducing vomiting, but you'll have to call your vet first to determine if the item in question is safe to be brought back up and the correct dosage based on your dog's weight.

On a lighter note, Rover may just get into something you wish he wouldn't. You may be tired of him grabbing those sneakers you left on the floor or taking his food bowl for a ride around the house. In some cases, you may want Rover to learn how to fetch, giving up the ball so you can toss it again. Again, these are cases where the drop it command may turn helpful.

In order to teach this command though, you need to make it easy for Rover. There are some things that makes teaching it more challenging. Here are some examples of some things you may want to avoid doing, or may want to stop from doing, if teaching the drop it command is on your wish list:

  • Avoid playing the keep away game. It may be fun to chase Rover when he has some prohibited or non-prohibited item in his mouth. This is called the "keep-away game" and guess what? Dogs love it! But at a closer look, with no rules in place,this game basically teaches your dog that you're interested in the item he just got and will make him reluctant to give up such item. So let's say next time he gets a hold of that lithium battery you just dropped, and you try to retrieve it, this game could turn into a tragedy.
  • Avoid grabbing stuff out of his mouth. If you repeatedly grab things out of your dog's mouth, he may one day decide to run away with the item or even become defensive growling at you and even biting you. Don't risk it!
  • Avoid not following through. At the same time, allowing Rover to get a hold of stuff and telling him to "give it" but then giving up, teaches him that he can get away with stuff without any consequence. However....
  • Avoid punishing the dog for not giving up something. This will only make things worse. If every time Rover gets something he shouldn't have and you reprimand him, you'll only teach him that bad things happen when he has something and you are around. So he may start getting sneaky, stealing stuff and then eating them out of your sight or eating them only when you are at a distance.

So what should you do if your dog gets a hold of something? We've seen that you shouldn't chase him, you shouldn't grab the item out of his mouth and you shouldn't punish him. So what's left? You got it! The drop it command! In the next paragraph, we'll take a peak at how to train this life-saving command.

How to Teach Your Dog to Drop It

In order to teach drop it, you'll have to identify your dog's hierarchy of desirable items. Basically, determine what items your dog likes to steal from you and run away with. At the same time you want to identify items your dog carries in his mouth, but he isn't that interested in. Last but not least, you must invest in food your dog is crazy about. The best results are attained when you start working with items your dog isn't that interested in stealing and giving up. For instance, many dogs are more likely to give up a tennis ball rather than a bone, which may be one of the highest value things in your dog's hierarchy of desirable items. So you want to start with something he's used to seeing around a lot and that he'll be less reluctant to give up. Afterward, you'll move on to things that are considered higher in value. Here are some steps:

  1. Find a quiet room where there are not many distractions going on.
  2. Get an item your dog isn't that interested in and toss it in the middle of the floor. If your dog isn't too interested, make the item "come alive" by wriggling it and tossing it around.
  3. When your dog has this item in his mouth, say "drop it" and afterward toss several bite sized treats on the floor. Your dog should drop the item to get the rainfall of treats. Praise him when he does so.
  4. Raise your criteria, Gradually, start practicing drop it with items he's more eager to have. Make sure the item you give in exchange is always higher in value than the item relinquished. High value items include several pieces of chicken, hot dog slices, pieces of string cheese, etc.

*Note: one of the best methods for training your dog to drop it is outlined in the video below. It's made by respected dog trainer Chirag Patel with Domesticated Manners. At first, it looks quite odd, but It really works in classically conditioning your dog to enjoy your presence near him as you show him how great it is to drop items and help him collect the treats.

Tips for Maintaining a Strong Drop it Command

The drop it command is a command you want to practice quite often to ensure your dog understands it and keeps it fresh in his mind. Following are some tips that will help set your dog up for success.

  • Train the leave it command. This command will help you prevent your dog from getting things he shouldn't have, so it's your first course of action. You'll be less likely to have to use "drop it" if your dog understands "leave it."
  • Manage the environment. If your dog is likely to go in the yard and get a hold of stuff he shouldn't have, try inspecting your yard and removing those items. It's easier to do this than asking your dog all day to drop stuff he finds in the yard. If you have a very large yard, try cleaning up an area and fencing it. Just as you "dog proof' your home, you should "dog proof' your yard. if your dog gets into the trash can, just invest in a trash can with a hard to open lid or keep it out of reach.
  • Manage your dog. If your dog tends to get a hold of stuff in the yard and take off with it, put your dog on a long line so you can have better control of your dog. Many dogs will take off with items because they know they can get away with it and consume it far from away you, so with a long line you take this option away. A leash is another alternative, especially with dogs who tend to ignore the drop it command when they are at a distance. With a closer distance to you, your dog may be more likely to relinquish the item than run away with it.
  • Go to the source of the problem. If your dog is getting into things he shouldn't, check with your vet if your dog has a nutritional deficiency. Some dogs have a medical condition known as "pica" and they'll eat all sorts of things such a stones, paper, dirt. At times, this can be a compulsive disorder. Eating poop is often a behavioral issues, but can also be a medical one. Products such as Forbid and Deter are better than 100 drop it commands. Ask your pet store about these products.

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    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Great advice. I couldn't live without this command. I have three dogs and I have used this command zillions of times. They are usually good enough to even spit out what they took, even if it's a cookie. (Usually). :) Thanks for posting!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      Great advice here. I really enjoyed teaching Zeus the drop it and leave it commands, and they do come in very handy in daily life. Voted up.