We all know the stand off… your pup has hold of your designer sunnies and is about to make off up the yard for a good munch!! Teaching drop it is really important to keep your stuff teeth mark free and to stop your pup picking up things that might do them harm. Different from the leave it cue which is basically ‘leave that I have something better for you’, drop it is when they already have something and you need them to give it back willingly. 

Dogs pick up and put everything in their mouths. Some of these things are no big deal; they don’t have hands to feel, so you can expect your pup to explore things with their mouth, but some things are dangerous for them to have, or worse, swallow, so teaching them a drop-it cue is important.

In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s important to teach your dog to drop it, and the method you can use to teach your pup a reliable drop-it cue, as well as how to slot teaching a dog to drop it into your everyday training

We have lessons on teaching your dog to leave, swapping items and more inside the Zigzag puppy training app. Unlike other dog training apps, there’s also a team of professional dog trainers at the end of the phone for you 24/7. You can contact them using our in-app chat or give them a call. They’ll be happy to talk to you when you’re concerned about your puppy, are not sure of something or just have a general puppy question.

golden retriever with flower
Photo by Celine Sayuri Tagami on Unsplash

Why do I need to teach my dog to “drop it”?

Training your dog to ‘drop it’ is helpful when it has something you want and prevents resource guarding. Teaching your dog basic commands like drop it and leave it is all part of raising a well-rounded, well-behaved dog that copes with life in our human world. 

We expect a lot from our dogs, and if they were wild or free-roaming they’d be able to do whatever they like. Still, they’re not, and since domestication, we’ve expected them to live up to our rules. We can easily teach them how to do all of these things with positive reinforcement training and apps like Zigzag.

How do I teach my dog to “drop it”?

Teaching your dog to drop it can be done systematically to ensure they will always drop whatever it is you want. There are a few different ways to teach drop it but we’ll go over one of our favorites the ‘swap for food’ method.

To teach ‘drop it’ you will need

  • A long tug toy or toy that your dog is happy to play with 
  • Some high-value treats in a treat pouch.

1. Choose a toy your dog quite likes

Engage in a game of tug with them, and play with them for a while, so that they’re happy and excited.

2. Grab a piece of high-value food and pop it on their nose

If your dog has a toy and you put a piece of high-value food or a treat on their nose, they will usually drop the toy.
Read our full article on rewards and treats.

3. Give them the treat for releasing the toy

Wow what a clever dog, they dropped the toy for a piece of food, you’ve now started ‘the swap game’ and are teaching your dog ‘you give me that, and I’ll give you something better’.

4. Repeat the toy play

Repeat the above steps, swapping the toy for treats. You’ll get into a bit of a flow here, and your dog might even start anticipating that your hand coming out will have a treat and begin releasing the toy.

puppy in yard
Photo by Richard Brutyo on Unsplash

5. Remove the treat from your hand

Once your dog knows your hand is coming with the treat, they will often drop when they see the hand. This is great; if they do this say ‘good’ when they drop the toy and THEN take a treat out of your treat pouch and give it to them.

6. Say ‘drop’ when your dog understands the exercise

When your dog starts dropping because they are anticipating your hand coming out, you can add the cue ‘drop’ right before your hand comes out.

7. Reward your dog for dropping

When your dog is dropping on the cue ‘drop’ you’re going to want to keep rewarding them for doing it. This is just the first step in teaching a reliable drop with much higher-value items, like fox poo (bleurgh) or other disgusting things!

8. Try it with different toys and household items

Your dog will have some toys which they find more exciting and valuable than others. They will find these difficult to drop as they want to keep hold of ‘their precious’. Practice the swap for food and steps above with lots of different dog toys, and also household items like socks, gloves etc 

9. Generalise and try different locations

The final part in how to teach a dog to drop it is to train your dog to drop in different locations so that they really get the idea. Dogs don’t generalize very well, so teach this in different rooms of your house, your yard, and then out and about in the park, pet store etc. In fact, wherever you can take your dog can often be a great place to teach them to drop.

pug with toy
Photo by Darinka Kievskaya on Unsplash

How to incorporate the “drop it” command into other puppy activities

Teaching a dog to drop it on cue really shines when they grab something and put it in their mouth that you don’t want them to have. This could be something valuable like a phone, dangerous like a coin, or something gross such as a lump of poop!

If you’ve taught your dog to drop it on cue at home with toys and practiced in different locations, then teaching your dog to drop items when out and about will be much easier. 

Building positive associations to having things taken off of them that they shouldn’t have is so important for your dog. You should practice it with regular day-to-day training and not only use it in the  ‘damn what have they got’ moment, as your dog requires consistent training to remember things, and if you only ask them to drop high-value items you can land yourself in trouble. 

If you have a puppy who is picking up things in their mouth, you can easily train them to drop things, by teaching them that nice things happen when they give up items. Teaching a dog to drop is a great way to prevent resource guarding and is a handy basic obedience cue to use daily to keep your puppy safe.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might like to read about how to teach a dog to leave it, or how to teach a dog to fetch. 

If you haven’t already, download the Zigzag app and get cracking with training your dog! We have a personalized program waiting for you and a team of professional dog trainers to help you along the way 24/7. Yes, Zigzag puppy trainers are on call for you when you need them via the in-app chat, or just give them a call.