“Max coughed up two socks last night,” “Zippy’s sidewalk snacking has cost me thousands in ER vet bills,” and the horror stories go on and on. Teach you pup a reliable Drop It cue before you have a traumatizing story of your own.
Drop It instructs the dog to immediately spit out whatever is in his mouth. In extreme cases, it can mean the difference between life and death. The problem is, your dog put that half-eaten pepperoni pizza slice in his mouth for a reason -- he wants it! Once it’s firmly in his mouth, it’s really up to him whether he will drop it or not. So it’s your job to convince him that spitting out the pizza is actually more fun and rewarding than eating it.
Here are three levels of Drop It. Work your way up by increasing the difficulty in very small increments, to ensure your dog is successful at every step. In real life, do not tell your dog to “drop it” unless you are almost certain he will. If your dog is still a the beginner levels of Drop It and he picks up something delicious (to him) on your walk, use the Level 1 method to handle snacking emergencies.
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Level 1: Emergency Drop It
This is a starting point for dogs with unreliable Drop It skills. Use this method for real-life emergencies until your dog fully learns to drop things on cue. Remember to bring extra tasty treats on your walks, in case such an emergency should arise.
This teaches the principle of Drop It, showing your dog that spitting out an item will get him something even better in return. Repeat this activity with as many different (safe) items as you can find.
Now you will give your dog the entire item, rather than share it. To ensure success, start with a very boring object to drop. You can also put him on leash to prevent him from running off.
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, MS, is an accomplished author and dog trainer with Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY. Her books, articles, and videos cover everything from house-training to leash aggression.