LEAVE IT is for the objects outside and that your dog is trying to go for but can NEVER have (i.e. dead things, garbage or poop).
DROP IT is for things you MAY GIVE BACK (i.e. toys, a stick, things in the house or maybe even the dog has an item in his mouth.
Why Is It So Difficult?
Think about: your dog steals a slipper, you come running over; chasing and yelling. Then grab and pull and are a little bit scary to a pup…BUT could be pretty exciting to an older dog!!
All this attention (even though negative) is attention after all – and sometimes ANY attention is well….great!!
Chasing a dog never works, not allowing play; never works…and of course, if the only time you pay attention to your dog is when he is doing something wrong, s/he is going to make the best out of it.
So let’s change the game:
DROP IT is a great compliment to FETCH, TUG OF WAR and any game that involves playing with your dog.
When the dog comes back with a toy simply put a smelly treat right up to his nose, the second they drop the toy – set the treat a few steps away and say or LABEL THAT behavior by saying: DROP IT (or pick a word you like RELEASE, OUT, OKAY)
Pick the toy up and throw it again…repeat the steps when the dog comes back. This way the dog is receiving two rewards: One, being the food you gave him. Two, being the throwing of his toy and the resumption of play! Soon your dog will learn that dropping things are fun!
Once you feel your dog is “sort of getting it” then add toys and play rather than always food.
Set It Up
Ask yourself what happens when you yell DROP IT!
How about we recreate that so the dog will know what is up…and even train around that happening so your dog looks FORWARD to you approaching and the DROP IT!
- Grab a bunch of treats or your dog’s dry kibble
- Toss several on the floor and loudly say, DROP IT
- Get your hands in there
- Point at the treats
- Touch his mouth
- Grab at the collar
- Walk away
Repeat 6 – 12 repetitions! (It takes that many for a dog to even see that you are doing something)
- Do the same as above but add toys and repeat 3 -6 times
- Toss the toy
- Toss the treats at the same time
- Say, DROP IT
- Squeak the toy
- Walk away
- Do the same but add a pencil or magazine or a piece of garbage
- Repeat 3-6 times
- All at the same time drop treats, the garbage and the toy
- Say, DROP IT
Now let’s change it up a bit.
Give your dog a toy and play with. Give a few minutes to get interested and then:
- Toss treats
- Repeat the above
- Point the treat out
- Grab the toy
- Drop the toy
- Point the treats out
- Grab the collar
- Touch your dog
- Walk away (yep, leaving the toy there)
This process TRAINS your dog to accept what you WILL do when DROP IT IS HEARD! The Positive approach allows your dog to LOOK FORWARD to you RUNNING up and touching him or her and even thinking DROP IT is a GAME rather than a horrible (yet fun) and RARE interaction between you.
Keep it up…consistency and repetition is the key to keep it growing into a behavior that you DO WANT. Do it in the house, in all rooms, with kids present and with garbage being collected. Do it inside and outside, with distractions and with house hold commotion!