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Training Your Dog to Drop It and Leave It - New Pictures & Video

11/09/2016
by Jessica Rollins

By Jess Rollins
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Leave It and Drop it are lessons that could save your dogs life (and your valuables from being chewed!)

It works best to spend about 15 minutes per day in 5 minute sessions working on his lessons (training during TV commercials works great!). Using small, pea-sized, treats to reward good behavior makes learning happen quickly and without overfeeding him. If your dog is not interested in treats, you can substitute playing with him or scratching him where he really enjoys it for a few seconds. Try to tailor your lessons so that they are easy enough for him to earn a reward most of the time. Setting him up for success will avoid frustration for the learner as well as the teacher.

The following steps will help you to teach your dog to ignore an object when you ask him to. We begin by making the concept very easy and simple for your dog to understand and then progress to real life situations.

Training Your Dog to "Leave it" - Leave something alone when you ask:

1. Hide small treats in both of your fists. Say "leave it" and let him sniff/explore one of your fists. Praise and reward (P/R) when he looks away from your fist and feed the treat from your other hand. Repeat this until he no longer tries to get the treat from your fist when you show it to him. Hide small treats in both of your fists. Say "leave it" and let him sniff/explore one of your fists. Praise and reward (P/R) when he looks away from your fist and feed the treat from your other hand. Repeat this until he no longer tries to get the treat from your fist when you show it to him.

Training Dog to Leave it - Step 1, Closed Hand
"Leave it" with closed hand.

2. Hide small treats in both of your fists. Say "leave it". Open a hand to show the treat to him, but close it if he tries to get the treat. Repeat this until he decides to ignore the treat while your hand is open and then P/R by delivering the treat in your other hand. Repeat these instructions until he is responding instantly.

Training Dog to Leave it - Step 2, Open Hand
"Leave it" open hand.

3. While sitting on the floor, set the treat on the floor near you and say "leave it". Cover the treat with your hand if he tries to get it. When he looks away from the treat on the floor, P/R with a different treat. Repeat this step until he can respond instantly.

Training Dog to Leave it - Step 3, Treat is on the Floor
"Leave it" on the floor"

Click the play button below to see a video of teaching step 3:

4. Set the treat on the floor, say "leave it" and stand up. Cover the treat with your foot if he tries to get to it. P/R for ignoring the treat. Repeat these instructions until he is responding right away.

Training Dog to Leave it - Step 4, Treat is on the Floor and Trainer is Standing
"Leave it" while I stand

5. Walk him past a treat on leash. Say "leave it" when he sees the treat and use the leash keep him from getting it if necessary. P/R with a different treat when he ignores the treat on the floor. Repeat these instructions until he is responding right away.

Next practice this without the leash but be ready to use your body to block him or to snatch the treat.

Training Dog to Leave it - Step 5 Treat is on the Floor and Dog is on Leash
"Leave it" while on leash

6. Practice "Leave it" with items you would like him to ignore in real life such as food on counters or tables, litter, animal droppings, tissues, etc. Remember to practice weekly to maintain this skill.

Training Dog to Leave it - Step 6 - Real World!
"Leave it" hotdogs on the table

Training Your Dog to "Drop it" - Release an item from his mouth when you ask:

We will teach him to open his mouth and let you take an object from him. This is a very important safety lesson for the times that he may get hold of something dangerous, like a chicken bone. Teaching "drop it" also helps to prevent him from aggressively guarding his chewies from you. He will learn that releasing items means good things for doggy.

1. Gather a few objects your dog might like to chew and some tiny treats, like cheese or turkey.

2. Have a piece of food ready in your free hand as you tempt your dog to chew on one of the items.a. Once he has his mouth on the object, put the treat very close to his nose and say "drop it".

Training Drop It - Step One - Using a Lure
Using a treat to get Gigo to drop the ball

Praise him when he opens his mouth. Feed him the treat as you pick up the item with your other hand and return the item to him.

Training Drop It - Step 1 - Trading

Feeding Gigo while picking up the ball

3. Try to get him to pick up the object again so you can continue practicing. If you have trouble getting him to pick up anther object, not to worry. In this case, keep a few treats handy throughout the day and whenever you see him pick up an object or toy you can ask him to "drop it" by following the instructions above.Aim for at least 10 successful "drop it" repetitions per day until you have completed all of the steps.Occasionally, you will not be able to give the object back to him (if he's found a forbidden object), but that's okay. Just be sure to give him an extra nice treat in those instances.

4. Once you've completed about 10 successful repetitions, follow the process in step 2 exactly, but this time be sneaky. Only pretend to have a treat in the hand that you bring close to his nose (I call this "empty fingers"). He will most likely be fooled and drop the object. Give him 3 treats the first time he drops the item when you show him "empty fingers". Continue practicing until he will "drop it" for "empty fingers" consistently. This "empty fingers" motion is now a useful hand signal for "drop it"!

Training Drop It - Step 4 -
"Empty fingers"

5. Now we will try to get him to drop a "tasty" item. Get a hard edible chew. Hold it in your hand at one end and offer the other end of the item to your dog - but don't let go! Let him put his mouth on it and then say "drop it" while pretending to show him a treat. Give him 3 treats the first time he does this and try it again. If your dog won't re-take the item, just put it away and practice another time. Practice this until he is dropping the item right away while you hold on to it.

Training Drop It - Step 5 - Tasty Items
Showing Gigo a treat while holding on to the bully stick

6. Get your hard chew again and some small cubes of meat or cheese. This time, you will offer the chew to your dog, let go of it and then right away say "drop it" while pretending to show him a treat. When he does drop it, give him 10 of your meat or cheese cubes, and then give him the chew to keep! If he doesn't release the chew, try showing him your treat first, and if that doesn't work, just let him keep the chew and try again later with a not-quite-so-tasty chew. You will be able to build up to higher value items with practice.

Training Drop It - Step 6 - Tasty Item with Empty Fingers
Gigo drops the bully stick for "empty fingers"

7. Practice "drop it" with objects that interest him but he is not allowed to chew such as tissues, pens (with the ink removed), wrappers, shoes, etc. Then practice this outside with items like pine cones, rocks, sticks, leaves, animal poop, etc.

Tips:

  • If your dog already enjoys grabbing objects and having a game of chase, you should begin by teaching him that you will not play chase with him. Ignore him when he runs away with an object and he will probably drop the item on his own once he is bored with it. If you must get the item right away, try distracting him by ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door. He will most likely drop the object in the excitement and you will then have an opportunity to retrieve it.
  • If your dog will not drop a dangerous item, even when you offer a yummy treat or ring the doorbell, you will be forced to open his mouth to remove it. To do this, place your fingers on his lips behind his canines and pull his mouth open. You will now be able to retrieve the item. Make sure you give him a big reward for allowing this treatment and keep that dangerous item out of reach in the future until he is ready to use it during "drop it" training sessions.

Forcing Dog's Mouth Open in an Emergency
Forcing Gigo's mouth open in an emergency


I hope this article has helped you to teach your dog how to "drop it" and "leave it". If so, please consider becoming a customer or sharing this article with a friend. Happy Training! ~ Jess

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