Teaching your dog to ‘drop it’ is fairly simple and can be done in only a few minutes, however, some dogs can become easily distracted, so be patient and persistent. The idea behind this training method is to basically offer your dog a trade - "let go of the object in your mouth and something good will happen." To do this you make the reward for him dropping the object equal in value or higher than the object in his mouth. Using two tennis balls may work for some dogs while other dogs may need some tasty food treats like chicken or string cheese to entice them to drop the object.
Below are the steps for teaching your dog to ‘drop it’ on command:
Start by arming yourself with some high value treats or a few of their favorite toys. Rope toys work really well but you what’s most important is that you use a toy that your dog enjoys playing with.
Wiggle the toy in front of your dog to entice him to grab onto it. Keep ahold of the other end, if possible, and start a little game of tug and pulling back just slightly to keep them engaged. If your dog is not a fan of the tug game then you can just let them play with it themselves.
After a few moments of playing the tug game or letting your dog chew on it solo, say ‘drop it’ as you move the tasty treat or other toy towards his nose with your other hand. Don’t let go of the toy if you are playing tug. If the food or other toy is good enough then he will spit out the toy to take the treat or other toy.
If your dog does not let go of the toy, try wiggling the treat or holding it closer to the nose. DO NOT pull the toy from his mouth or pry open his jaws - this can send the wrong message, seeming like a game or punishment.
Repeat the steps several times until you feel your dog is responding well. Some dogs will won’t be into any repeats because they know you have tasty treats now or they lose interest in the toy you wanted them to hold in their mouth. If this happens it’s ok, just try again a little bit later.
After a while, try holding the treat farther away. Then, try the command without the treat, praising your dog if he complies.These may have to be broken down into baby steps so be patient and always be mindful of setting him up to succeed. This will minimize the chance for frustration between him and you as well.
Once your dog seems to understand the “drop it” command, you can practice it randomly while your dog is holding something in his mouth. Just make sure you are always rewarding him when he does drop it. You can also start using different objects as well as work in different locations. If your dog gets stuck and doesn’t trade, hold a couple of practice sessions with an “easier” item. Stop using your word cue until she’s responding quickly again.
If you practice consistently, you’ll have your dog dropping toys at your feet in no time!